The parents of two boys with autism were disappointed by an American Airlines customer service decision.
After preparing the whole family for a vacation, Adam and Heather Halkuff and their five boys under the age of 16 were allegedly told they couldn’t fly because the 5-year-old on the autism spectrum had a meltdown during boarding, KXAS reported.
Yet the Halkuffs foresaw the challenges of flying with two young kids with autism and made preparations in advance to ensure the flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Kansas City went as smoothly as possible. Adam said:
“I first contacted American Airlines and I asked them if there were any programs or anything they can do for us because we’d be traveling with five boys, two that had autism.”
More than a week before the trip, the Halkuffs were granted a practice run at going through security and boarding the plane.
A spokesperson for the airline confirmed with Fox News that 5-year-old Milo and 2-year-old Ollie practiced the boarding process on September 24. American Airlines told Fox News in a statement:
When it comes to autism, American is a strong advocate for children. Our team members work closely with various nonprofit groups to alleviate the stress these children and their families may experience while flying, including offering families the opportunity to take a test fight on the ground. This process — which includes role playing and realistic airport interactions — helps children grow accustomed to the experience of flight.
However, on the day of the flight, Milo had a meltdown just as the family was getting on the plane.
The Halkuffs claim other passengers were sympathetic, but an American Airlines gate agent was less accommodating. Heather told KXAS:
“All the passengers are walking by. They’re very kind, they’re like, ‘You got this mom. Do you need any help?'”
But Heather was told she and Milo couldn’t board with the rest of family because the 5-year-old was too disruptive to fly.
“Right away she goes, ‘He can’t get on the flight … he’s going to bother the other passengers and then he’ll still be upset during the flight and we’ll have to turn around and escort you off the plane.'”
The Halkuffs offered to split up instead of having the whole family travel together. Milo’s father was willing to take the boy back home while his wife flew on with the older kids. Heather said:
“I’m thinking now that my older boys, I don’t want them to resent Milo, ever, that we can’t do stuff.”
But this wasn’t an option, and the family was escorted back to the terminal.
American Airlines is looking into the incident and has reached out to the family. The company said in a statement:
We are concerned to hear about this situation. Our team has reached out to the Halkuff family to gather more information about what transpired at Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW). The American Airlines team is committed to providing a safe and pleasant travel experience for all of our customers.
The airline said it is committed to providing the best travel experience for families with children with autism, reports Newsweek.
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