A mother and her baby kicked out of flight for breastfeeding before take-off
Unfortunately, breastfeeding is still treated like a stigma
An acclaimed pianist and cancer researcher from Houston was booted out of a Spirit Airlines flight that was headed to Newark on Friday on grounds of 'misconduct.'
The misconduct in question?
She did not immediately stop breastfeeding her two-year-old son after being constantly instructed by the cabin crew to stop doing it.
Mei Rui, 34, recalled the harrowing details of her trip where she was accompanied by her parents and son, when they were asked to step down from the Spirit Flight 712 for the scheduled 6:30am trip from Houston to Newark.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Rui revealed what exactly happened that fateful morning. "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," she said.
According to Rui, while she was breastfeeding, the plane's door was open and people were still filing inside the cabin. While a few flight attendants passed her by without saying anything, one attendant sauntered in and asked Rui to place her baby in his seat as the flight was ready to take off.
"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 explained. "I said, ‘I promise I’ll finish before you close the plane’s door,'" she added.
Rui tried to put her son to sleep in her arms while the plane was still at the gate. However, on Monday, a Spirit Airlines spokesperson released a statement that contradicts her version.
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
In a statement given to Houston’s KHOU, Spirit Airlines stood by their decision of taking Rui and her family members off the plane.
“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.”
The spokesperson, Stephen Schuler, also added that Rui told crew members they would have to drag her off the plane while she recorded them.
“Multiple reports from the crew and other passengers nearby confirm the doors were closed when the incident happened,” Schuler revealed in an email to USA today
Mei Rui, 34, her son Lukas and her elderly parents were told to get off the flight for ‘not being compliant.’ pic.twitter.com/9W1sUlKJ7K— Dose (@dose) December 11, 2017
Rui called the spokesperson's version 'a blatant lie'. She said: "We were stationary at the gate and the plane door was still open so people were walking around.” She also added that the police were called before her family left the plane—they saw the officers at the end of the jet bridge.
In a video footage recording, Rui is seen asking the airline crew member about what her mistake was. “I just want to know why we were kicked off the plane?” Rui inquired as an airline crew member and a couple of uniformed officers blocked her from the plane gate.
“Because you were not compliant.”
“Could you tell me which part of the instruction we were not compliant with?” she is seen asking her son who continued crying. “I think we deserve to know that.”
But to no avail. In fact, she was cut off rudely by the airline representatives.
“If this happened to your family,” Rui commented.
But the airline representative cut her off.
“It wouldn’t happen to my family, I can assure you," he responded.
Will never fly @SpiritAirlines after seeing treatment of @nicholas_navin's wife Mei Rui, their child & her parents. @SpiritAirlines employee LAUGHS in her face that it "would never happen to his family". #unacceptable #NoEthics #MgmtFail #PoorDecison #dontflyspirit— Sam Solace (@SamuelSolace) December 11, 2017
This incident adds on to the ever-expanding list of aggression directed at breastfeeding mothers. The debate on breastfeeding in public has caused a stir in public consciousness and many mothers have been posting about their encounter with people who aren't too pleased with breastfeeding in the public eye.
Rui, who originally hails from China, is also a 2015 Grammy nominee and was actually headed to New York City for a recording with patients as a part of a cancer study. The stand-off resulted in Rui missing out on the opportunity.
“They treated us like we were criminals,” she told The Post. “A baby crying is not a crime.”
Schuler said as a courtesy Spirit Airlines refunded Rui’s entire trip and offered to book her on another airline, but she has only one question to ask: "We're not lawbreakers or trouble seekers," said Mei. "We're the elderly, a baby and his mother, why did they have to treat us this way?"
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