I paid £4,000 more for premium seats on the TUI flight but was told I had to move because my son had AUTISM – I’m furious
A mum claims she was told she couldn’t sit in premium economy class on a nine-hour TUI flight because her five-year-old son has autism.
Amanda Brown shelled out an extra £4,410 for speedy boarding and extra legroom, but was told to move because she was ‘fussy’.
The 31-year-old was traveling from Gatwick to Jamaica with 17 friends and family for her honeymoon on May 30.
His parents decided to upgrade the group to premium economy class for £245 pp to make life easier for five-year-old Billy, who has non-verbal autism and a blue badge.
But on boarding, Amanda asked the cabin crew where she could change the youngster as the nearest lavatory was too small, and she says she was told she would have to upgrade to the cheaper seats.
The carer, from Croydon, south London, said: “It’s outrageous.
“We paid extra charges for premium seats, but felt like we didn’t belong.
“Many comments have been made about the inconveniences of having my son there – and he was the best-behaved boy on the whole plane. I am furious.
“I was so upset and in tears. We were being discriminated against.
“They made us feel like shit and singled us out for having a disabled child.”
Amanda and her group refused to budge from their seats – which were wider, had a steeper recline, children’s TV channels, food and drink, lounge access and came with priority boarding – but claimed that they were treated differently from other passengers for the remainder of the flight.
She added that little Billy was no problem at all, sitting quietly on his iPad for the full nine hours.
“He was so good,” she said.
“I’m filing a complaint. The way we were treated is enough to make me boycott TUI for good.”
The holiday giant said it takes the allegations “very seriously”.
I was so upset and in tears. We were discriminated against.
Amanda said the argument erupted over her questions about the toilet, but things got worse when they landed in Montego Bay.
Billy’s ‘special needs pram’ was nowhere to be found, despite being promised it would be waiting at the plane’s doors, she said.
“I had no choice but to keep walking and my son started having a bad temper tantrum and biting and scratching my arms,” Amanda said.
“We then had a long wait at passport control. Billy got so upset he was almost sick.
“After another 30 minutes the buggy was finally there and I put Billy in it and he immediately felt better.”
Amanda said her band lodged a complaint about how they were treated but were disappointed by the lack of a quick response.
TUI says they never received it, but the family eventually received an email thanking them for raising the issues and apologizing for the “level of service” they received.
A TUI spokesperson said: “We take allegations of this nature very seriously.
“We encourage the customer to contact us directly so that we can investigate further.”
They added that during the flight, crew members received complaints from other passengers about the noise level of some children in premium economy class and that parents were changing children’s nappies on the seats.
What is non-verbal autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is an incurable and lifelong developmental condition that affects the way people perceive the world and interact with others.
It affects around one in 100 people in the UK and is three to four times more common in boys than girls.
Many people with ASD have difficulty understanding other people’s feelings and emotions and may have difficulty carrying on conversations.
When they are young, their language development may take longer and they may struggle to use facial expressions, instead using gestures to communicate.
They may also have difficulty connecting with other people and maintaining eye contact with unfamiliar people.
Many children with ASD like to follow a routine, and changes to it can cause distress.
High-functioning autism is an informal term that some people use to describe people with autism spectrum disorder.
Non-verbal, or non-speaking, autism is a subset of autism where the person does not learn to speak, and sometimes does not point or gesture.