Mei Rui, a concert pianist and cancer researcher, was supposed to fly from Houston to Newark on Friday along with her son and her elderly parents. While the cabin door was still open, Rui began breastfeeding her son, hoping it would put him to sleep for the flight.
"Every parent with a young child can image, you don't want to be that parent on the plane," Rui explained. "It would be very embarrassing. I was just trying to avoid that."
She said that a few flight attendants walked by without saying anything but then one approached her and said her son had to be in his seat for takeoff.
"I asked for just a couple more minutes to finish because if he woke up at that point he would have made a lot of noise," Rui said. "I said, 'I promise I'll finish before you close the plane's door.'"
Rui said the attendants conferred at the front of the plane while she stopped breastfeeding and put her son, who had begun crying, in his seat. She said it was then that the crew told her she needed to exit the plane, a moment she recorded on her phone.
After leaving the plane and encountering waiting police officers, Rui asked the airline representative why she was kicked off the plane.
"Because you were not compliant," the representative responded.
When Rui asked which part of the crew's instruction she was not compliant with, the representative refused to answer.
In a Facebook post shared Sunday, Rui explained that her son had been awakened after the plane was delayed for three hours and that she began breastfeeding in an attempt to quiet him for the flight.
"Crying is not a criminal offense, especially since if you let me do my job as his mother, nobody on the airplane would have even noticed his presence!" she wrote.
In a statement to KHOU, Spirit stood by the crew's decision.
"Our records indicate a passenger was removed from Flight 712 after refusing to comply with crew instructions several times during taxi to runway and safety briefing," the statement reads. "To protect the safety of our guests and crew, FAA regulations and airline policies require all passengers to stay seated and buckled during takeoff and landing. We apologize for any inconvenience to our guests. As a courtesy, we've issued a full refund to the passenger in question."
Photo Credit: Philip Pilosian / Shutterstock.com