“They treated us like we were criminals."

By Aric Jenkins
December 11, 2017
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Credit: Getty Images

A mother who was breastfeeding her child during a delayed Spirit Airlines flight was kicked off of the aircraft, according to a new report.

Mei Rui, a concert pianist and cancer researcher based out of Houston, was supposed to catch a flight on the carrier to Newark on Friday, according to the Washington Post. Multiple weather delays pushed back the 6:30 a.m. departure, eventually prompting Rui to breastfeed her son ahead of takeoff in order to prevent him from crying, she told the paper.

“Every parent with a young child can image, you don’t want to be that parent on the plane,” Rui told the Post. “It would be very embarrassing. I was just trying to avoid that.”

Rui said that she fed her son while the plane’s door was still open and people were moving around the cabin. Flight attendants passed by aisle and didn’t say anything, she said. Then one approached and said the child needed to be strapped in his seat for takeoff.

“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.’”

The flight attendants gathered at the front of the plane, she told the Post. She decided to stop feeding her son and he began to cry. It was then that the crew told Rui that she needed to get off the plane, she said.

“It’s not like I was resistant, I put him in the seat,” Rui said. “If they had shown a little compassion, it wouldn’t have happened, they didn’t have to let it escalate.”

Police officers were waiting for her as left the plane and walked to the end of the Jetway, the Post reports. A Spirit Airlines representative told her she could not get back on, according to video footage of the counter Rui took on her cell phone.

“I just want to know why we were kicked off the plane?” Rui asks the airline representative in the video, as he and several uniformed officers blocked her from the plane gate.

“Because you were not compliant,” the representative responds.

“Could you tell me which part of the instruction we were not compliant with?” she asks, as her son continues crying. “I think we deserve to know that.”

But the Spirit representative declines to provide more details.

“If this happened to your family.” Rui says.

“It wouldn’t happen to my family, I can assure you,” the representative says, cutting her off.

Spirit Airlines stood by its decision to move Rui and her son in a statement provided to Houston’s KHOU station.

“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,” the statement read. “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 begged to differ.

“They treated us like we were criminals,” she told the Post. “A baby crying is not a crime.”