Holiday travel is always, in a word, maddening, but one woman had an alleged experience so miserable it was newsworthy. Mei Rui alleges she, her two-year-old son, and her parents were kicked off a Spirit Airlines flight after she breastfed on the plane just before takeoff on Friday — after weather repeatedly delayed the early morning trip. As far as terrible travel experiences go, this sounds particularly unpleasant. Bustle has reached out to the airline for comment and will update upon hearing back. In the meantime, Spirit has issued a statement about the incident to Houston’s KHOU:
“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.”
Each year, it's common to hear about unhappy passengers who were bumped off overbooked flights or removed for disorderly conduct. Rui's story, however, followed a more unusual trajectory. According to her account in theWashington Post, Rui, a cancer researcher, was traveling with her young son and both elderly parents from her home in Houston, Texas, to Newark, New Jersey, to take part in a clinical cancer study in New York City. The 6:30 a.m. flight was delayed several times with passengers in the cabin, but at last, it seemed the plane was ready to take off. That was when Rui decided to start breastfeeding her son in the hopes that it would put him to sleep, or at least keep him from crying, during the flight, she told the Washington Post. She explained to theWashington Post that she was trying to avoid being "that parent" whose children scream the entire journey.
Although she said that she began breastfeeding while the cabin door was still open, flight attendants soon asked her to stop and strap her baby into his seat for takeoff, according to the Washington Post. Rui said to the Post that she asked for a few minutes to finish feeding him, explaining that if she stopped, she had a feeling he would wake up and cry. Sure enough, when she stopped and put him in his seat, he started wailing. According to the her account to the Washington Post, the crew then approached Rui and instructed her to get off the plane.
Filming the encounter with her cell phone, she left the plane and was met by police officers at the end of the jet bridge, according to KHOU. In the footage, you can hear her being told by an airline representative that she and her family were removed from the flight because she was "not compliant" with the crew's instructions. When she asked which part of the instructions she disobeyed, the representative did not explain further in the filmed encounter.
Rui said to the Washington Post that after waiting an hour for their luggage to be returned, they drove back home to Houston, and her father collapsed and had to be driven to the emergency room.
Rui told KHOU that on top of having to cancel the trip to New York, the even bigger issue was the embarrassment of being forced to leave a plane in front of other passengers. "You just don't have to treat people that way," she told the local news outlet. She admitted that her son was making quite a bit of noise, as babies usually do, but "that's not criminal."
This is far from the first airline incident that has drawn attention on social media this year. In April, United Airlines made headlines when a video surfaced of security agents dragging a passenger off a plane; in 2013, an easyJet passenger alleged he was initially prevented from boarding a flight after complaining about a delay on Twitter (easyJet issued an apology and allowed him on the flight).
So... who else is excited for holiday travel this year?