A+ A A-

DoT Opens Inquiry into AA Denied Boarding of Down Syndrome Boy

  • Written by Roberto Castiglioni

Bede VanderhorstThe DoT has opened an inquiry into the incident involving Down syndrome Boy Bede Vanderhorst who was denied boarding an American Airlines flight on Sunday.


"DOT’s Aviation Enforcement office is aware of the incident and has begun an inquiry into the matter," a spokesperson for the US Department of Transportation told Reduced Mobility Rights on Wednesday.


Joan and Robert Vanderhorst were traveling with their son Bede. The 16-year-old boy from California has Down syndrome. Moments before boarding their flight from Newark to Los Angeles on Sunday morning an American Airline official informed them they were not allowed on board as the captain had decided Bede could be a flight risk because of his behavior at the gate.


"He was not ready to fly, that was our perspective,'' A spokesperson for American Airlines said. "We rebooked the family out of concern for the young man's safety and that of other passengers as well.''


The Vanderhorst family, who plans to sue American Airlines for discrimination against the disabled, disputes AA account of events. "The pilot never came out, he never interacted with my son," Vanderhorst said.


A video taken with a mobile phone shows Bede sitting quietly playing with his baseball hat. To add humiliation to discrimination, an American Airlines employee called Port Authority police to have the family removed from the gate.


American Airlines, who stand by the captain's call of judgement, was unavailable to comment if the Vanderhorst family had been made aware of their entitlement to speak to the Complaint Resolution Official.


The Aviation Enforcement office inquiry into the accident will investigate compliance with CFR 14 Part 382, the anti-discrimination act protecting the rights of disabled passengers.


Also on Tuesday Reduced Mobility Rights learned the DoT is still investigating the case of Jim Stanek, the disabled veteran who alleged United Airlines personnel abused him and kicked his guide dog.


"DOT has received a response from United Airlines regarding the case," a DoT spokesperson told Reduced Mobility Rights. "Our Aviation Enforcement Office is currently reviewing all of the information provided and investigating the case."  


"At this point United has not claimed any responsibility, we are currently in discussion with an attorney about how to proceed," Lindsey Stanek, Jim's wife, said.


About the author


Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Reduced Mobility Rights, Roberto Castiglioni has extensive knowledge of PRM regulations and handling procedures, along with first-hand experience as a travelling companion and carer of a passenger with reduced mobility.


Roberto is a member of ESAAG. Chaired by the Hon. David Blunkett MP, the Easyjet Special Assistance Advisory Group, ESAAG, provides Easyjet with strategic guidance and practical advice on the evolving needs of passengers requiring special assistance. Easyjet is the largest airline in the United Kingdom by number of passengers carried.



I have contacted Reduced Mobility Rights on a few occasions for support and advice; on each occasion they have been nothing less than fantastic - thank you and keep up the good work!

Jonathan Fogerty

Company Info

Reduced Mobility Rights Limited
Registered in England and Wales.
Company No : 07748812
9 Dalton House, 60 Windsor Avenue, London
United Kingdom, SW19 2RR
Phone: +44.(0)7786.993741



Cookie Policy

We use cookies to create the best website experience for our readers. By continuing to use our site, you agree to the placement of cookies on your device. Please read our cookie policy to learn more about cookies and learn how to disable them.