No one wants to be that mom on the plane with a crying baby, and Mei Rui totally gets that. But the acclaimed concert pianist and cancer researcher was kicked off of her Newark-bound Spirit flight on Friday while traveling with her child and was never given a clear answer as to why, according to The Washington Post.
The reason she suspects? Because her toddler son was crying.
Rui was on her way to New York City from her home in Houston for a recording session that was linked to a clinical cancer study. This was not a last-minute trip, nor was the flight overbooked. Rui’s elderly parents and two-year-old son were joining her on the flight.
Anyone with a baby or toddler knows how time-sensitive and strategic you need to be when traveling with them, so when the 6:30 a.m. flight was delayed, Rui had to adjust. After being cooped up in the plane’s cabin she decided the best way to keep her son asleep and not crying was to nurse him just before the flight was ready to take off.
“Every parent with a young child can imagine, you don’t want to be that parent on the plane,” she told The Post. “It would be very embarrassing. I was just trying to avoid that.”
The mother was told her son had to be in his seat for take-off, and asked for “just a couple more minutes” before the plane’s door was even shut. “I said, ‘I promise I’ll finish before you close the plane’s door.’”
Just as she promised, her son was strapped in his seat before the door closed, but he did begin crying. Shortly after, she was asked to deplane. She started recording on her phone and repeatedly asked why she was being kicked off the flight if she ultimately complied. When she asked, the reason she kept getting from Spirit officials was, “Because you were not compliant.”
“Could you tell me which part of the instruction we were not compliant with? I think we deserve to know that…If you could get the answer to that I would be happy to rebook…which rule did we break?” Through all of her questions, the airline executive repeatedly says, “No. No, I can’t do that,” in a condescending voice.
Then she turned it around, “If this happened to your family would you –” But before she could finish he laughs and says, “It wouldn’t happen to my family, I can assure you.”
One of the police officers standing by eventually offered to give her more information and possibly explain what was happening, asking her to step to the side so they are no longer blocking the gate. Blinded by frustration and anxiety that was probably heightened by her wailing son, she refuses to accept that she can’t get back on the flight.
“I’m willing to put you on another airline and pay for it,” said the first executive. “But you are wasting time.”
The three go back and forth and ultimately, Rui says she never made it to New York. She told The Post that her parents, both Chinese natives who lived through the trauma of their country’s Cultural Revolution, were terrified at this point after the incident involving the plane authorities. After waiting for their luggage for an hour and going home empty-handed, Rui’s father collapsed and had to be rushed to the emergency room. He is known to have previously suffered from heart ailments.
Spirit made a statement to Houston’s KHOU News in response:
“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.”