June 25, 2008 — -- There were no weapons on board or concerns about terrorism, but an American Eagle flight about to take off from the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., airport was turned back to its gate on Monday to remove two passengers.
The culprits? An upset, autistic toddler and his mother.
By all accounts, two-year-old Jarret Farrell wasn't a happy traveler. But his mother, Janice Farrell, who said she tried everything to calm her son, believes there was no reason for the airline to kick them off the plane.
The airline disagrees, saying they were removed primarily because Janice Farrell kept her carry-on bag on the floor in front of her seat, but that Jarret's behavior added to the tense situation.
"The child had been crying and screaming uncontrollably, to the point where the child's well being was in question," American Airlines, the parent company of American Eagle, said in a statement. "Though, ultimately, the parent's violation of FAA regulations was the cause for removal, both situations contributed to an uncomfortable and potentially unsafe atmosphere for our passengers and crew."
But Farrell told "GMA" she allowed the flight attendant to place her bag in an overhead compartment. And, even though Farrell said she explained Jarret's autism to the flight crew, they only made the situation worse by reprimanding and yelling at the toddler.
"[The flight attendant] kept coming over and tugging his seatbelt to make it tighter, 'This has to stay tight.' And then he was wiggling around and trying to get out of his seatbelt. And she kept coming over and reprimanding him and yelling at him" Farrell told ABC News' Raleigh-Durham affiliate WTVD.
Farrell said that a pilot came into to the cabin and told Jarret, "You have to get in your seat, young man."
Farrell said she started crying then, which just exacerbated Jarret's behavior.
"He just melted down. He saw me getting upset. He was upset. He was on the floor rolling around," Farrell told WTVD.
That's when the pilot turned the plane around and headed back to the terminal, where Farrell and her son were escorted off the plane.
The Farrells, who were on the way to visit family in New Jersey, were originally supposed to takeoff on Sunday, but the flight was cancelled when the plane was on the runway.
Jarret was perfectly fine on that flight, Farrell said, with crew members letting her son walk around the plane and watch his DVD player.
Farrell said that had the flight crew been more patient and understanding, the situation might not have escalated. She suggested that airline flight attendants and other crew members should be trained to deal with special needs children.
This story was originally reported by Ed Crump at ABC News affiliate WTVD.