A mother who breastfed her baby on an airplane was allegedly kicked off her Spirit Airlines flight and refused re-boarding, The Washington Post reported.
Mei Rui, a concert pianist and cancer researcher, was flying from Houston to Newark with her mother, father, and 2-year-old son, the Post said.
The flight was repeatedly delayed, but while the plane was still on the ground, Rui began breast-feeding her son, with the hope that it would keep him from crying while in the air.
“Every parent with a young child can image, you don’t want to be that parent on the plane,” she told the Post. “It would be very embarrassing. I was just trying to avoid that.”
Rui claimed she was breastfeeding while the plane’s door was still open and people were moving around the cabin. When a flight attendant approached her and asked that her son be in his seat before takeoff, she said she was almost done.
“I asked for just a couple more minutes to finish because if he woke up at that point he would have made a lot of noise,” Rui said. “I said, ‘I promise I’ll finish before you close the plane’s door.’”
But when the flight attendants decided to discuss the matter at the front of the plane, Rui said she decided not to push her luck, and put her son in his seat. He began crying immediately.
At this point, the crew told Rui that she needed to get off the plane.
“It’s not like I was resistant, I put him in the seat,” she said. “If they had shown a little compassion, it wouldn’t have happened, they didn’t have to let it escalate.”
Police officers and a Spirit Airlines representative met Rui on the runway.
“I just want to know why we were kicked off the plane?” Rui asked the airline rep.
“Because you were not compliant,” he reportedly answered.
“Could you tell me which part of the instruction we were not compliant with?” she asked. “I think we deserve to know that.”
The airline representative refused to tell her, she said.
“If this happened to your family—” Rui began.
“It wouldn’t happen to my family, I can assure you,” he said.
The family waited for an hour to have their luggage returned to them, but their items were missing, they said. And later that day, Rui’s father, shaken by the experience and suffering from heart problems, collapsed and had to be rushed to the emergency room.
“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,” said Spirit Airlines in a statement to KHOU. “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.”
But Rui said that isn’t enough.
“They treated us like we were criminals,” she told The Post. “A baby crying is not a crime.”