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Loganville family with disabled son denied boarding on Alaska Airlines flight

LOGANVILLE, Ga. (CBS46) – A Loganville family claims their son was discriminated against when he attempted to board an Alaska Airlines flight over the weekend.

Tamara and Jeff Miller are set to enjoy a week-long cruise to Alaska right now with their 11-year-old son, Gabe. However, the family said they were not allowed to board their Alaska Airlines flight on Saturday from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, reportedly because of Gabe’s disability.

“I always feared that Gabe would be discriminated against at some point in his life, but I didn’t think it would be so bad, that in our face,” Tamara said with tears in her eyes.

Gabe was born with a rare genetic condition, limiting his speech and intellectual abilities. He was also diagnosed with autism last year. Gabe has traveled with his parents in the past. They said he loved it.

“Any mode of transportation, whether it’s by car, by bus to school,” Tamara explained. “We left by train. He loves the feeling of being on the move and that’s where he’s happiest.

The Millers said their son was excited to get on the plane and was vocalizing quite loudly while waiting to board. Once past the gate agent and into the tunnel, the family was forced to wait at the plane’s door while other passengers boarded. What happened next left them speechless.

“The supervisor said that [pilot] said, ‘If he’s that bad on the ground, he’s going to be 10 times worse in the air,'” Jeff recalled.

The Millers said neither the captain nor the flight crew ever asked them why Gabe was making noise. Instead, they were not allowed to board the flight.

“Nobody ever came to talk to us, ask us how we interpret what he’s doing,” Jeff said. “He made an assumption, and he was absolutely wrong.”

Alaska Airlines offered the family 100,000 bonus miles and told the family an internal review was underway. The family said they are unlikely to do business with the airline again, but they still think something needs to change.

“We don’t want anyone losing their job because of this, no,” Tamara said. “It’s a lack of understanding of how to treat certain people with certain disabilities. Something has to change in their training, in their communication to their employees on how to manage and accommodate people with disabilities.

Alaska Airlines sent the following statement to CBS46:

“We are investigating an incident involving the denial of boarding by one of our guests. We feel bad about this family’s experience and are working directly with them to fully understand what happened and take care of their travel needs. We will also assess the situation and evaluate our training programs to ensure this does not happen again. We are committed to the inclusion of people with disabilities, and as a long-time supporter of many disability-focused organizations, including Wings for Autism, we understand the unique needs of travelers with cognitive and developmental disabilities and are committed to take care of them during their journey.

Following our report, Tamara said Alaska Airlines contacted them and plans to refund their trip, including the cruise. She also said the airline wanted to fly the family to Seattle to meet with stakeholders to improve their training and procedures.


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