The Kirschenbaum family were traveling from Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, to Newark, New Jersey. And, knowing the federal safety regulations requiring that every person over the age of 2 purchase their own seat, the mother had purchased a seat in economy class for Ivy. However, Ivy, pictured above with her mother, is unable to sit on her own because of her disabilities. She is also the size of a 1-year-old, at just 25 pounds. And so Ivy, who has flown several times since turning 2, always sits on one of her parents’ laps, and it has never been an issue.
In fact, Ivy’s mother says that three separate flight attendants who acknowledged the Kirschenbaum family made no mention of the fact that Ivy was in her mother’s lap.
It was the fourth flight attendant who made the situation difficult.
“Then a fourth attendant approached us and I knew immediately there was a problem,” Elit said. “She said, ‘she needs to be in a seat.'”
Kirschenbaum said she explained to the flight attendant that Ivy was not able to sit up on her own. What followed was a series of events that Kirschenbaum describes as a “circus,” and delayed the flight’s takeoff by an hour.
Kirschenbaum said she repeatedly explained that Ivy was physically incapable of sitting up on her own. The other flight attendants quickly got involved — and they were siding with Kirschenbaum. According to Ivy’s mother, the other three attendants conferred and pleaded with the fourth attendant to simply let Ivy sit on her mother’s lap, all to no avail.
Kirschenbaum mentioned that the resisting flight attendant was the most senior in age, but not the lead.
Those three attendants pleading Ivy’s case found a handbook that allowed for an exception to the rule of each passenger over the age of 2 sitting in his or her own seat — if a passenger cannot physically sit by themselves, an exception can be made. But still, the fourth flight attendant would not budge.
A spokeswoman for United Airlines told ABC News, “The parents, who were ticketed in first class, wanted to hold the child in their lap rather than have the child take the seat they’d purchased for her in economy. Federal safety regulations require any child over the age of two to have his or her own seat, and flight attendants are required by law to enforce that safety rule. As we did in this case, we will always try to work with customers on seating arrangements in the event of any special needs.”
Kirschenbaum said she understands the federal safety regulations, but notes that, with a child like Ivy, who cannot sit on her own, “there are significant and obvious and extenuating circumstances here.”
In the end, the flight did take off — with Ivy lying, belted in, across the laps of her parents for both takeoff and landing. During the actual flight, she sat on her mother’s lap, as she always does.
Ivy’s mother is going public with her story of how she feels her family was humiliated at the hands of United Airlines because she wants an apology from the airline.
“I don’t want free flights and I’m not interested in contacting a lawyer as some people have suggested I should,” she said. “I just want the airline to apologize.”
#UnitedWithIvy is the hashtag Elit Kirschenbaum has started on Twitter, and it’s catching on quickly.
The airline told ABC News it has reached out to Kirschenbaum. Elit says she was left a message that she returned — but there has been no apology so far.
Companies who do not treat people with special needs with the dignity everyone is deserving of often find themselves the subject of humiliation themselves in the court of public opinion. Just last month, retailer Bath & Body Works made repeated headlines for the way a store treated a group of customers with special needs.
Source: Inquisitr, 1st Jan 2015