Girl With Down Syndrome Barred From a British Airways Flight

Posted Jun 16th 2011 08:45 AMUpdated Jun 16th 2011 12:23 PM



M&Y Media

A 12-year-old British girl was denied passage on a British Airways flight for having Down syndrome, supposedly per airline policy.

Airline staff refused to sell a plane ticket to Alice Saunders for an unaccompanied trip from London's Gatwick Airport to Glasgow. Her mother, Heather Saunders, was told it was company policy to not accept young passengers with Down syndrome flying alone.

Heather Saunders tried to make her daughter's reservation via phone.

"I explained I wanted her to travel as an unaccompanied minor, she was 12 years old, she had Down syndrome and was very independent," she told the Daily Mail.

However, according to the mother, the customer service agent said company policy would not allow it because of problems incurred in the past.

Heather Saunders further revealed that, according to the representative, had she not told the airline about Alice at the time of booking, she would have been turned away at the gate.

According to a British Airways spokesperson, it is not against company policy allow those with Down syndrome to fly alone. "We will carry any child over five years old as an unaccompanied minor provided they can go to the toilet unassisted, feed themselves, and behave in a socially acceptable manner," she told the Daily Mail.

This includes Down syndrome passengers.

The spokesperson added that the airline "apologizes unreservedly" to the Saunders and has offered them two return tickets.

Filed Under: Air Travel, News

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John Wood

Rebecca Saunders. An extremely informative and constructive post. I live near a home for DS people and frequently see them in the village with their assistants. I do not really have any experience or contact other than this and have to admit I would be concerned if I found myself seated next to one on an aircraft. . Yes - ignorance and prejudice by me but something that might be mitigated if there were more attention given to and by people such as you and your sister.

July 23 2011 at 1:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brittany John

My apologies to the Saunders family that they have to put up with that BS. I wish there was some way to make people more understanding and less ignorant. My cousin has down syndrome and this really hits hard for me. I hope a new policy comes into effect that is more considerate. I also apologize for the dummies that don't see otherwise.

July 18 2011 at 1:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Just because someone is living with Down Syndrome does not mean they can not toilet themselves, feed themselves or even sit on a plane solo. I work with individuals living with a wide variety of disabilities and believe me they live full and happy lives. We have a couple that just got married, we have a group that is going on a trip to Europe.
I work with one young man that can balance a check book better than I can.
We have to stop looking at those with disabilities as being sub-human and look at them as human. Yes, some need some more guidance and assistance, but they are human.

July 16 2011 at 3:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lynn Rossi

I am so incredibly sorry for the Saunders family. It is all too common for agents that are not well trained in listening or fundamental policies, otherwise they would have understood that Alice is very independent. My daughter has been flying unaccompanied since she was 9 years old and we pay and extra $100.00 US for this consideration. Shame on those who responded to this article in a rude and insensitive way. How dare you look at Heather as being irresponsible. Just her calling ahead to make all the necessary arrangement BEFORE HAND proves that. To the entire Saunders family: I sincerely apologize for the ignorance shown by a true minority of narrow-minded people.

July 05 2011 at 2:21 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Major Wood

Sue their collective a$$es off! That's the American way of life!

July 04 2011 at 4:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mark Anselmo

Wow! Eric Steinberg is as awesome as he is right! I am a pediatric specialist who has been caring for children with special needs for 12 years and I have a brother with trisomy 21. I cant believe all this time I have been fighting as an advocate of these children so that they can be respected in society and be allowed to integrate seamlessly without prejudice and discrimination. OMFG Now all that is crap. I need to research "retard strength" and figure out this "gigantic from missing so many growth regulating genes" problem and life would be great! Eric, we need guys like you in our hospitals like STAT! Oh, but if you're there expanding on your groundbreaking research, who is to protect us innocents from the hoarde of Down Syndrome (yes there is no 's) children who will be disrupting our airline travel plans. Scary that you stand between us and a terrorist. You suck.

June 29 2011 at 8:21 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

My son Tyler, 28 yrs old is getting ready to travel unaccompanied from Phoenix, Arizona to Kansas City, Missouri. He has Down Syndrome and has been traveling in this manner for many, many years, and is quite adept at it. I have never encountered such an issuewith an airline and am extremely glad I haven’t.However, we have encountered other forms of "different-ism" as I call it! People will look at me and talk about my son as if he wasnt there....and I have learned that people do not do this out of harm, but out of ignorance. It is up to us as parents, or the person with the disability, or sister, aunt father, etc to teach others and be a stoic advocate for our children/people with a disability. I would view Alice’s encounter as an issue of discrimination. Would they confront a person with a physical disability in the same manner? Probably not……, I would suggest that the airline move on into the era of acceptance for everyone and if certain adjustments are needed, then they should be provided. I feel that plane fares are quite exuberant and are adequate to absorb a minimal cost for an adjustment.

June 23 2011 at 4:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Earlene's comment

I really like the phrase "different-ism".
I wish more people would see those with "different-isms" as human and treat them like anyone else.

July 16 2011 at 3:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dee Gayle

I'm not sure which points to greater bravery: The family's taking on the airline's injustices, or the family not only taking on and rebuffing these horrendous comments from the general public. Either way, it's quite apparent that this is not a family bereft of common sense.

To the Saunders: Don't ever back down. Continue being your daughter's/sister's advocate. Continue acting with dignity. Entire industry standards can change because one person stood up and said, loudly enough, that change is needed.

And ignore the fools in the comments. To quote a movie: "People are dumb, panicky animals and you know it." The herd instinct is strong in this comments section. :)

June 22 2011 at 4:16 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Louis Mitchell

Ms. Saunders, I hope that as a result of your mum and sisters actions other's will be spared this type of trauma

I think this situation as well as countless others around the world Illustrate the need for additional reforms and or regulations relating to passenger rights and the powers bestowed upon airline personnel.Passengers simply do not enough flying options available to simply have the "if you don't like it choose another airline" mentality that seems to be so prevalent among airline staff these days . I think we/they should remember that the "public" has come to their rescue more than once and that it is someone's brother, sister, mother, father that their dealing with in these admittedly somewhat complex situations.

As for the posters I call them keyboard bandits spouting things through the screen they would never say to a persons face .. yet apparently harbor deep in their souls.
If you read enough comment sections it's easy to understand the Evil in this world.

May God bless you and your family !

June 22 2011 at 4:02 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Please! The child would have been perfectly well behaved (and completely occupied) if given a window seat.

June 21 2011 at 3:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply