Last week, A Houston woman was kicked off a Spirit Airlines flight with her baby, and she says it’s because she was breastfeeding. The incident occurred on Friday, December 8th, as Mei Rui, a pianist and cancer researcher, boarded a flight headed to New York with her two-year-old son and elderly parents, according to reports.
Rui was going to New York to participate in a “clinical study dealing with cancer,” according to local CBS affiliate KHOU. She filmed the aftermath of the incident on her cellphone, believing that she was shamed for breastfeeding her baby, as flight attendants told her to stop breastfeeding and put her child in his seat. The incident reportedly happened prior to the plane doors shutting and before take-off.
Rui reportedly pleaded with attendants for a few minutes so as not to wake up her son. “I said as soon as the plane’s door closes, I will put him in his seat,” she said after being removed from the flight. “You just don’t have to treat people that way. He was making very loud noises, but that’s not criminal.”
“It was humiliating to be chased off a plane in front of hundreds of people,” she added. “We had never been through anything close to this.”
A Houston pianist and clinical researcher kicked off @SpiritAirlines flight Friday morning.. she was on her way to conduct cancer research in NYC. Wants answers from airline. Live @iah at 10 #KHOU11 pic.twitter.com/mDPQmC5AOC— Marcelino Benito (@MarcelinoKHOU) December 10, 2017
Spirit Airlines issued a statement standing behind the employees involved. “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,” the statement said. “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.”
Rui received a full refund, but says she won’t fly with Spirit again. “We’re not lawbreakers or trouble seekers,” she told KHOU 11. We’re the elderly, a baby and his mother, why did they have to treat us this way?” she asked.
While we of course can’t know for sure what happened, we do know that breast-feeding in public is still stigmatized, and that compassion is all-to-often often lacking when it comes to parents coping with small children.
We hope all airlines — and customer service-oriented companies in general — are taking note.