Family forced off flight after toddler throws fit

Posted at 12:55 AM, Mar 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-18 00:55:07-04

CHICAGO (WGN/CNN) – Southwest Airlines is taking some heat after a family was escorted off a flight, following a crying fit by a toddler who didn’t want to sit in her own seat, a witness says.

Passenger Alexis Armstrong, 24, filmed part of the Wednesday afternoon incident on her cell phone in a video that has since gone viral.

Armstrong says Southwest staff removed a couple and their young daughter from a flight to Atlanta shortly before takeoff after the child became unruly.

The girl wanted to sit in her father’s lap and not her own seat, Armstrong says, leading the woman to speculate she was nervous about the flight.

“One or two flight attendants had stopped by, and the daughter – I’m assuming maybe it was her first time flying – she did not want to sit in her own seat… She was crying. She was nervous, and the flight attendant had stated that he [her father] needed to calm her down or he was going to be escorted off the plane with her,” Armstrong said.

The 24-year-old was sitting a row back and across the aisle from the family. She says the flight attendant walked away but then returned, and the father asked for a minute to calm the girl down.

Armstrong says the child quieted down, and she thought the flight was ready for takeoff. But the airplane was only on the runway for a short time before returning to the gate.

“We’re on the runway for maybe a minute or two. The child has been sitting this whole time quietly, in her own seat, and then that’s when the captain came over the intercom and said, ‘We’re going to go back to the gate. We have a customer service issue to address,’” Armstrong said.

As seen in Armstrong’s video, the flight attendants returned and escorted the family off the plane.

"Our initial reports indicate a conversation escalated on board between the crew and a customer traveling with a small child. We always aim for a welcoming and hospitable experience and regret the inconvenience to all involved,” said Southwest Airlines in a statement.

The company says the family was booked on the next flight to Atlanta.

Armstrong, who is herself the mother of a 4-year-old son, thinks the whole incident could have been avoided.

“Nothing was legally done wrong, but people with children are going to be scared to fly Southwest now. How do you know your kid isn’t going to be afraid and you’re going to get kicked off your flight?” Armstrong said.

Copyright 2018 WGN, Alexis Armstrong, Southwest via CNN. All rights reserved.