Concert pianist and cancer researcher Mei Rui was traveling from Houston to New York with her 2-year-old son and elderly parents when she said she was kicked off a delayed Spirit Airlines flight for breastfeeding her child.
Rui, who was traveling to New York to participate in a recording for a clinical cancer research study, took her son out of his seat and started breastfeeding the toddler to put him to sleep and keep him from crying.
Flight attendants told her to stop and go back to their seats, according to KHOU. Rui claims that the cabin door hadn’t closed yet, and that she would put her son back in his seat before the plane departs.
In a video recorded by Rui, her son can be heard screaming right before another flight attendant came to kick them off the flight.
“He was making very loud noises, but that’s not criminal,” Rui said.
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The flight attendants discussed the situation at the front of the plane before the mother asked why she was being told to leave if the baby was already in his seat.
“It’s not like I was resistant, I put him in the seat,” Rui told The Washington Post. “If they had shown a little compassion, it wouldn’t have happened, they didn’t have to let it escalate.”
“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.”
Police officers were waiting for her at the end of the Jetway and a Spirit Airlines representative asked her not to come back on board, with the only reason being that Rui wasn’t “compliant.”
“You just don’t have to treat people that way,” Rui said. “We’re not lawbreakers or trouble seekers. We’re the elderly, a baby and his mother, why did they have to treat us this way?”
In response to the incident, Spirit defended its decision to kick Rui and her family 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.”
Rui, who holds degrees in molecular biophysics and biochemistry and music from Yale University and a Grammy nomination in 2015 for her classical piano performances, never made it to the clinical study in New York.
It’s also been a year filled with hardships for her and her family who lost their house and belongings to Hurricane Harvey, and are still in temporary housing.
Featured Image via YouTube / KHOU 11