‘I’m still shaken by this’ Girl with autism and family kicked off plane

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(May 9, 2015) — An Oregon couple is unhappy with United Airlines after their daughter who has autism was escorted off of a flight by police.

They are now planning a discrimination lawsuit.

Dr. Donna Beegle is a public speaker and has traveled wither her 15-year-old daughter Juliette all around the world without ever having any issues.

On Tuesday, Dr. Beegle was traveling with her family back from Disney World. They were on a connecting flight from Houston to Portland when Juliette got overly hungry.

Dr. Beegle tried to get Juliette to eat some of the food she packed, but Juliette didn’t want any of it. Dr. Beegle told KATU that Juliette is clinically picky about the food she eats. Juliette is high-functioning but has extreme difficulty verbally communicating. “And I know her, when she gets over hungry or over thirsty she really struggles because she can’t tell us,” said Dr. Beegle.

So Dr. Beegle asked if they could purchase something hot from first class, and she says they were told “no.”

“And I said ok, fine we’ll get to the point where she’s crying and then you’re going to want to help her. And that’s when the attendant went and got a first class meal,” said Dr. Beegle.

The family says Juliette started to calm down and was watching a video when a member of the flight crew announced the plane would be making an emergency landing because of a passenger behavior issue.

Dr. Beegle retold the events to KATU. “The police said, ‘Well, you know, we’re going to have to ask you to leave the plane.’ And I said, ‘I don’t understand why? There’s no issue. What is the problem?’ And he said, ‘Well, the captain doesn’t feel comfortable flying to Portland with your daughter on the plane.’”

The family hired a lawyer and filed a lawsuit. She says the purpose of the legal action is to encourage the carrier to better train their employees in understanding the needs of autistic children.

United Airline provided this written statement to KATU.

“After working to accommodate Dr. Beegle and her daughter during the flight, the crew made the best decision for the safety and comfort of all of our customers and elected to divert to Salt Lake City after the situation became disruptive. We rebooked the customers on a different carrier and the flight continued to Portland.”

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