Canadian musician Sarah Blackwood of Juno-nominated band Walk Off The Earth was shocked after she was kicked off a United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Vancouver because her 23-month-old was being fussy. After calling out the airline on Twitter, her story has gone viral. Blackwood spoke with us about how it all went down.
ER: Can you give us a quick recap of what happened?
SB: I was travelling with my son and nanny—we had two flights that day. We were on the airplane and my son was being fussy because it was a long travel day. A couple different flight attendants approached me and told me that I needed to control my child. They told me that if I couldn’t control my child then they’d have to turn the plane around. I was holding my kid in my lap and told her not to worry and that my child would go to sleep. As we were taxiing the plane, it came to a stop. The pilot said we needed to refuel, which I found strange. Then the plane turned around and they asked me to exit the plane. By that point, my son was already asleep in my lap.
ER: So you’re seven months pregnant and on this flight with a 23-month-old. What were your thoughts as this was all happening?
SB: I was shocked and embarrassed because I had never heard of someone being kicked off an airplane due to a fussy child. I travel for a living, I have this child, and I’m also currently pregnant. It turned into an exhausting travel day.
ER: They said it was due to safety reasons—do you buy that?
SB: No, because according to [the] statement, it said I was allowing child to run around. I know the procedure of taxiing and the rule of having a child younger than two years of age in my lap. He was in my lap the entire time.
ER: What other kinds of difficult situations have you encountered on a plane, and how have they treated you?
SB: I travel for a living so it’s expected that there will be delayed and cancelled flights—nothing out of the ordinary. I’ve had bad experiences with United’s customer service before, so I don’t expect too much, especially in the airline business. But I was shocked because nothing like this has happened to me before.
ER: In your opinion, what’s the most kid-friendly airline in Canada?
SB: Air Canada. They’re just the best out of all the ones we’ve travelled with. They’re always polite and accommodating. They also have up-to-date planes.
ER: What’s the response been like after all of this?
SB: The response has been crazy. It’s a lot bigger than I thought it would be. I tweeted at United about the situation and it just exploded from there. There have been a lot of comments from passengers on the United plane saying what happened was unnecessary and that the flight attendant made a bad move.
ER: Has there been any follow-up from United Airlines since they issued the statement?
SB: No. But an apology would be accurate and justified. I travel for a living. My band spends thousands of dollars moving around and travelling. We were treated unfairly and it needed to get out there. Now people will know the story.
ER: Do you plan on flying with United again?
SB: Not intentionally. Sometimes it’s out of my control to choose the airline [my] travels with. But I will try to avoid it.
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