Autistic toddler kicked off airplane

June 22, 2008 9:00:00 PM PDT
The mother is telling her story exclusively to Eyewitness News.

An American Eagle flight taxiing to a Raleigh-Durham Airport runway was turned around Monday, but not because of a terrorist threat.

The crew was kicking an autistic Cary toddler and his mother off the plane.

As the American Eagle flight headed down the taxiway, two-and-a-half-year-old Jarett Farrell wasn't a happy traveler.

His mother says she was doing all she could to calm the autistic boy, but got no sympathy from the flight crew.

"If they just would have been a little more understanding I think that none of this would have been a problem," Mother, Janice Farrell said.

But it became a big problem for everyone on the plane. Farrell says that's because the flight attendant was indignant.

"She kept coming over and tugging his seatbelt to make it tighter, 'This has to stay tight'. And then he was wiggling around and trying to get out of his seatbelt. And she kept coming over and reprimanding him and yelling at him," Farrell said.

One of the pilots came back to the cabin with a stern warning and Farrell says the frustration level escalated.

She says Jarrett picked up on that and things only got worse.

"He just melted down. He saw me getting upset. He was upset. He was on the floor rolling around," she said.

The pilot returned to the cockpit, turned the plane around and headed back to the terminal.

"The pilot made an announcement that there was a woman and her child on the plane and the child is uncontrollable. And at that point I just broke down," Farrell said.

Farrell says when she got back to her home in Cary she called her husband and they decided that she should call American Airlines corporate. She says a company representative apologized and said the incident should never have happened.

But that's not what American Airlines told Eyewitness News.

A spokesman in Dallas says Jarret was pitching a "raging fit".

And that Janice, who was in a front-row seat, refused to allow her bag to be placed in an overhead compartment, even though there was no under seat stowage.

He says that with a "passenger not complying with FAA regulations, this was the right decision."

Farrell says even though her travel bag had things to calm Jarrett, she did indeed give it to the flight attendant.

"She took my bag and put it up top," Farrell said.

Farrell is taking the train to see family in New Jersey and she and her husband say they will never fly American again.


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