Teen with Down syndrome stopped from boarding plane
September 6, 2012 -- Updated 0136 GMT (0936 HKT)
- Bede Vanderhorst was to fly with his parents from New Jersey to Los Angeles
- The American Airlines pilot prevented the boy from boarding, the parents say
- Airline spokesman: The boy was "agitated and running around the gate area prior to boarding"
(CNN) -- Two California parents say their 16-year-old son was stopped from getting on an American Airlines flight because he has Down syndrome.
Joan and Robert Vanderhorst say the boy, Bede, was set to fly with them from Newark, New Jersey, to Los Angeles on Sunday when the pilot told them the boy could not fly.
"We were not allowed on the plane because this man saw my son and made a decision," Joan Vanderhorst told CNN affiliate KTLA. "This little boy had a seat in first class and for some reason that wasn't acceptable."
"The young man was agitated and running around the gate area prior to boarding," American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller said in a written statement. "Our pilot noticed and asked a customer service manager to talk to the family to see if we could help him calm down and get better acclimated to the situation. That effort was ultimately unsuccessful."
The Vanderhorst family says Bede was well-behaved, and they showed video of him sitting in the gate area playing with his hat.
"He's behaving. He's demonstrating he's not a problem," his father is heard saying on the video.
Bede has flown with his parents dozens of times, they said, and the only difference on this trip was they had paid to upgrade to first class.
The airline said that out of concern for Bede's safety and the safety of other passengers, it decided the family would have to take a later flight.
Under the federal Air Carrier Access Act, which requires airlines make accommodations for people with disabilities, airlines can refuse to fly a passenger who might pose a safety threat to the plane or other passengers, but they cannot make generalizations about disabilities or prevent someone from flying simply because of a disability.
"I kept saying, 'Is this only because he has Down syndrome?'" Joan Vanderhorst told KTLA.
The family ended up flying home on a different airline and American says it refunded the money the family paid to sit in first class.
The Vanderhorsts told KTLA they had not received the refund and planned to file a discrimination lawsuit against the airline.
Kudos for thoughtful fliers with babies
No more flying solo: Business travel's social revolution
Safety board recommends external cameras on jetliners
Part of complete coverage on
June 11, 2013 -- Updated 1817 GMT (0217 HKT)
It's about making an entrance. Dramatic entries are a given with air travel, and airports should convey a sense of welcome and arrival.
September 10, 2013 -- Updated 1356 GMT (2156 HKT)
When even the most secluded beach on the mainland is too crowded, there's always the option of renting a private island for your vacation. Really.
June 6, 2013 -- Updated 1218 GMT (2018 HKT)
Yosemite National Park has almost everything a nature lover could desire.
September 10, 2013 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
It all started with Madonna -- the original Madonna -- and the 16th-century Italian artists who paid tribute to her with artwork drawn directly on the street.
September 9, 2013 -- Updated 1333 GMT (2133 HKT)
Sports venues in the United States have come full circle.
September 6, 2013 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
Bread served hot out of the oven. Fluffy pancakes topped with huckleberries. These are the kinds of hotel breakfasts that satisfy guests.
November 27, 2013 -- Updated 1105 GMT (1905 HKT)
An afternoon spent in a world-class museum can be an out-of-body experience -- a trip in a mental time machine.
February 4, 2013 -- Updated 1627 GMT (0027 HKT)
Check out daily travel photos from CNN.com readers and share your best shots
June 10, 2013 -- Updated 1212 GMT (2012 HKT)
We've come to expect fees for hotel WiFi and parking, but as lodging fees pile up, there are some that may come as a surprise.
April 26, 2013 -- Updated 1222 GMT (2022 HKT)
The worn-down, travel-weary businessperson is looking for proximity, convenience and comfort in an airport hotel. There's little time to waste.
October 19, 2012 -- Updated 1245 GMT (2045 HKT)
Gross is everywhere. It's in the food we eat, it's in nature, and of course, we ourselves might be the greatest source of grossness.
July 28, 2012 -- Updated 0101 GMT (0901 HKT)
When five teenagers sat down and posed for a picture at Copco Lake in 1982, they didn't plan on making it a tradition. But that's what it became.
Today's five most popular stories