Family Films Airline's Refusal To Allow Son On Flight 'Because He Has Down's Syndrome'

05/09/2012 11:15 | Updated 22 May 2015

A family filmed the moment an airline refused to allow their son to board a flight because, they claim, he has Down's Syndrome.

Furious parents Joan and Robert Vanderhorst were allegedly told 16-year-old Bede was disruptive and a danger to the flight crew.

But the couple say he was simply being discriminated against and are now threatening to sue American Airlines.

The family were waiting to board a flight in Newark, New Jersey, back to their home near Los Angeles when they were told they would not be allowed to take their seats in first class.

Bede's mum told KLTA TV she was so upset that they decided to film their son to prove he wasn't badly behaving.

In the video, she can be heard sobbing and her husband says: "He's behaving. He's demonstrating he's not a problem."

Joan replies: "Of course he's behaving. He's never not behaved."

She told KLTA: "I kept saying, 'Is this only because he has Down's Syndrome?'"

The family, who have flown together dozens of times insist Bede was singled out on this occasion as they had upgraded to the first class section.

"This little boy had a seat in the first class area, and for some reason, they didn't want that. That wasn't acceptable," Joan said.

But American Airlines claims Bede was 'excitable, running around, and not acclimatised to the environment'.

"For the safety of the young man and the safety of others, American Airlines offered to book another flight for the family," American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller told KTLA.

Bede's dad said the family was warned their son's behaviour was a concern because their first class seat was too close to the cockpit and a distraction to the pilot could cause a mid-flight emergency landing.

"My son is no different from a four or five-year-old as far as behaviour,' he insisted.

The Vanderhorsts claim Bede hadn't caused any trouble and instead was being discriminated against.

They said the airline was in breach of her son's civil rights and the Americans with Disabilities Act and were planning to sue.


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