Autistic Girl and Her Parents Removed From Airplane — But Is jetBlue to Blame?

A pilot for jetBlue Airways had a girl and her parents removed from the aircraft on which they were to fly as passengers from Nantucket to Boston — the duration of the flight is approximately 20 minutes on an Embraer E190 regional jet aircraft — because the 13-year-old girl was crying and refused to buckle her seat belt prior to departure.
Mia Galindo — who was supposedly diagnosed with autism, cannot talk, and uses a tablet as a primary mode of communication — was reportedly upset because she thought her father had left the airplane. Her father was actually aboard the aircraft and seated ten rows ahead of her and her mother Emily, who were seated together at the rear of the aircraft.
Because the family was unable to get Mia under control, they were told by the pilot to leave the aircraft — reportedly claiming that Mia was “a potential danger to other passengers” — after the airplane returned to the gate at the airport.
Emily Galindo — who supposedly refused to fly on jetBlue Airways ever again as a result of this incident — claimed that the family was forced to fend for themselves and spend nearly two days and $2,000.00 to return home to the Harrisburg area of Pennsylvania from Nantucket. This included:

  1. Taking a ferry from Nantucket to the southern shore of Massachusetts
  2. Hiring a taxi cab for transportation from the ferry terminal to the bus terminal
  3. Riding as passengers on a bus to Boston
  4. Staying overnight in a hotel property in Boston
  5. Renting a car to drive from Boston to Baltimore-Washington International Airport to pick up their parked car
  6. Driving home in their own car from the airport

A travel voucher was offered by jetBlue Airways to the Galindo family — but it was refused, as the family wanted a full refund of their airfare and a full apology for the incident instead.
Here is a video report by Jesse Knutson of WHP-TV CBS Channel 21 News in Harrisburg.
Unfortunately, the Galindo family is not receiving much support from FlyerTalk members.
While jetBlue Airways may have been following rules and guidelines from the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States, I cannot help but wonder if this situation could have been easily resolved on the part of the:

  • Flight crew by figuring out a way for the family to be together; or
  • Family, who could have communicated to jetBlue Airways ahead of time to alert crew members of Mia and her autism

Did the family put the needs of their child ahead of the safety of others and attempt to have the flight crew break the law? Could the flight crew of that particular jetBlue Airways aircraft have done more to avoid this situation altogether? Does jetBlue Airways owe the Galindo family an apology — or perhaps could the Galindo family owe jetBlue Airways an apology for bringing this story out publicly to the media?
Perhaps there is blame to go all around — or perhaps there is more to this story than what we know…

16 thoughts on “Autistic Girl and Her Parents Removed From Airplane — But Is jetBlue to Blame?”

  1. nlkm9 says:

    sad as it may seem, it certainly does not seem safe to allow the child to fly without her seatbelt being buckled–god forbid the child was hurt during turbulence, I bet the family would have no issues sueing.
    I think the airline did the right thing–safety is #1 priority, and as soon as you begin making exceptions……

  2. mkjr says:

    honestly, how hard is it to move passengers around. airlines do it involuntarily ALL the time. strikes me that failing to seat family together when the issue would have resolved because of this is pretty easy fix.

  3. SSteegar says:

    The agents should have put the family together to begin with, if they were made aware of Mia’s special needs. (And we don’t know whether JB was informed or not.) If the agents couldn’t do that because, say, the seats were all assigned out, then the agents should have asked the F/As to help out.
    Beyond that, I hate to say it because I feel for the family, but if they couldn’t get the girl under control, than they would, unfortunately, need to be removed. But they should have been accommodated on another flight. I don’t understand why that didn’t happen.

  4. audio-nut says:

    I don’t see anything that the airline did wrong here.

  5. hm500 says:

    How about taking responsibility for your own child? Unfortunate situation for the family but I don’t think they are owed anything by JetBlue.

  6. SwissCircle says:

    Sad story, but:
    the expenses are way out of proportion:
    Ferry about $120 for all three
    Cab to Bus Terminal max. $ 30 …
    Bus to Boston about $120 for all three
    Hotel max. $ 400 (nice place)
    Car rental another $200
    And fuel about $ 200
    That`s about $ 1200.00 … go figure…

  7. It'sHip2B^2 says:

    Why weren’t they re-accommodated on a later flight? And why didn’t they rent a car for the entire trip home. One-way rentals are pricey but certainly less than $2000 for two days.

  8. Bloodshot2k says:

    We are assuming that flight attemdants knew the father was there. Also we are assuming the family was acting civil. It was probably a huge commotion that led to the result.
    Family is wrong

  9. trajanc says:

    $2000? lol I’d love to know where they stayed!

  10. laggers says:

    As a Pilot, I’m with the flight deck decision.

  11. catocony says:

    How about:
    Ferry to mainland, taxi to train station, cheap Amtrak Northeast Regional to BWI, pick up car and drive home? That would cost maybe $500 total, if that.
    The hotel, the bus, all of that is just stupid. As is the dad not explaining things and asking to swap out the seat in front of or to the side of the ones with the wife and kids. I don’t know of any traveler who wouldn’t trade out a seat 10 rows ahead for one in front of or next to a screaming kid.

  12. trooper says:

    I fail to see why it is “unfortunate” that little support for the family is forthcoming from Flyertalkers.
    Seems almost like a snide swipe from the writer IMO….

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Not at all, trooper. Simply put: if the family were to look for sympathy, FlyerTalk would not be the place to go based on the comments posted in the discussion linked in the article itself — nothing more than that.

  13. Upgraded! says:

    I think there has to be more to this story, such as:
    -Why was the father not found and relocated to be with the rest of the family?
    -Was the father eventually found/relocated but by then it was too late (sometimes it can be difficult to calm children, particularly those with special needs, down even after the problem is resolved)?
    -Were there no other flights/was the family not offered one? In these situations, as with intoxicated pax (not to compare an autistic child to an adult who voluntarily got drunk), isn’t SOP to offer a later flight assuming everyone has calmed down and the tension has dissipated?
    -What did the cabin crew and family say/do in between the start of the incident and the pilot’s final decision to offload the family?
    I’d like to hear some of the answers to these questions before rendering any judgement one way or another. However, my instinct says that there were things both could have done to approach the situation differently. The family needs to understand that at no point will they be on an equal playing field: having a child with special needs will always present challenges which will ultimately be their responsibility to deal with and the rest of the world cannot always accommodate, particularly when there is a safety issue affecting many. It’s not about discrimination, or people being uncaring, but conditions like autism are considered “special needs” because of these challenges. The airline, meanwhile had the right, and in fact the responsibility, to remove the family if the girl couldn’t be calmed down (after attempting seat swaps, etc.). However it sounds as though the family’s options for travel were not effectively communicated to them, hence the ultimate outcome.

  14. ulxima says:

    “Unfortunately, the Galindo family is not receiving much support from FlyerTalk members”
    Perhaps because FT members know the rules.
    Seriously, is this a factual post travel related, we are supposed to read here or a Daily Mirror article?

  15. onlythetruth says:

    public transportation operated by a private corporation. FAA policy over-rides families wishes. Disability act guarantees equal access, not special rights; like no seat belt or not being in control. Airline 1 Family 0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.