Talking toddler and mother removed from flight in Houston

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A passenger on a Houston flight says she and her child were thrown off the plane during an incident before takeoff. The question is -- did a crew member go too far, or was the move justified?

You know what it's like when you fly and the flight attendant goes through the security information before take-off. Some of you pay attention and some of you don't. But what happened on a recent Continental ExpressJet flight in Houston led to a woman and her child getting thrown off the plane, and now she wants answers.

The Atlanta to Oklahoma City flight was just connecting at Bush Intercontinental Airport. There was a long delay, but the problems for the Georgia mother and her son didn't start until they boarded the plane.

Passenger Kate Penland recalled, "He was saying, 'Bye-bye, plane.'"

That's how Penland's son Garron said goodbye to a more than 11 hour delay at the Houston airport. It happened last month on board a Continental ExpressJet plane while it taxied. The one and a half year old repeated 'bye-bye, plane' all through the flight attendant's safety speech.

"As she finished, she leaned over the gentleman who was sitting next to me, and she said, 'OK, it's not funny anymore. You need to shut your baby up,'" Penland said.

Penland explained Garron would likely fall asleep soon. The toddler wasn't crying or throwing a fit.

Penland told Eyewitness News, "She said, 'It doesn't matter. Regardless, I don't want to hear it.' And she said it's called baby Benadryl and (made a drinking motion.) And I said, 'Well, I'm not going to drug my child so you have a pleasant flight.'"

"He wasn't any louder than the adult passengers on the plane," said passenger Stacey Watts.

Watts sat just a few rows back from the Georgia mother and heard the entire conversation.

"Katie was in shock at that point," Watts explained. "You could tell. She was in row 3 and I was in row 6. She just kept saying, 'I don't know what you expect me to do. I don't know what you expect me to do.'"

Suddenly eyewitnesses say the flight attendant announced they were returning to the gate and Penland would be removed from the plane.

Houston police received a report of a disturbance on a plane, but it appears when the officer got there, he didn't find any crime. In fact, Penland wasn't arrested charged or even given a ticket.

According to ExpressJet, the flight crew has the authority to remove passengers who interfere with the safe operation of a flight. Penland has a difficult time believing she or her son caused that type of problem.

"It was embarrassing," she said. "I felt helpless."

We did some checking and the airline doesn't appear to have any specific rules or policies regarding passengers talking during the safety instructions.

Kristy Nicholas, a spokesperson for ExpressJet, gave the following statement to Eyewitness News: "We received Ms. Penland's letter expressing her concerns and intend to investigate."
(Copyright © 2007, KTRK-TV)

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