Mei Rui, a concert pianist and cancer researcher, claims she was kicked off a Spirit Airlines flight from Houston, TX, to Newark, NJ on Friday. The reason? It had nothing to do with the flight being overbooked or Rui acting disorderly, unless you consider breastfeeding your baby disorderly, which it seems Spirit does.
The flight had been delayed due to weather, and Rui started breastfeeding her child, to keep him from crying and hopefully put him to sleep, she told the Washington Post. She said, “Every parent with a young child can image, you don’t want to be that parent on the plane. It would be very embarrassing. I was just trying to avoid that.”
Rui told the Post that while passengers were still moving around the cabin and the plane door was still open a flight attendant notified her that her baby had to be in his seat for takeoff.
In response, Rui asked for "just a couple more minutes" because if she stopped feeding him then, she worried he'd wake up and make noise. She told the attendant, "I promise I'll finish before you close the plane's door."
As the attendants considered Rui's request, she stopped feeding her son and he immediately started crying. And then the crew told Rui she would need to get off the plane, according to the Post.
Rui, who was now filming the incident with her camera, asked, reasonably, why she was being told to leave the plane if the baby was already strapped into its seat as requested. Seems like a fair question.
Rui told the Post, “It’s not like I was resistant, I put him in the seat. If they had shown a little compassion, it wouldn’t have happened, they didn’t have to let it escalate.”
Rui left the plane as directed, where she was met by police officers and notified that she would not be allowed to re-board. Rui asked a Spirit Airlines rep why she was kicked off the plane, and was told it was because she wasn't "compliant," the Post reports. She was given no further details, despite her questions.
Rui, who was not only traveling with her son but with her elderly parents, began to say, "If this happened to your family . . .” before being interrupted by the airline rep, who said, "It wouldn’t happen to my family, I can assure you.” WOW. Rude!
That wasn't the end of it. The family's bags weren't immediately returned, and after driving back home, Rui's father had to be admitted to the hospital when he collapsed from heart trouble.
Rui told the Post, “They treated us like we were criminals. A baby crying is not a crime.”
But the airline isn't apologizing. A rep for Spirit Airlines told KHOU in Houston,
Our records indicate a passenger was removed from Flight 712 after refusing to comply with crew instructions several times during taxi to runway and safety briefing. To protect the safety of our guests and crew, FAA regulations and airline policies require all passengers to stay seated and buckled during takeoff and landing. We apologize for any inconvenience to our guests. As a courtesy, we’ve issued a full refund to the passenger in question.