13 Year Old Boy Duct Taped To Seat On American Airlines Flight

A 13 year old boy tried to kick out the windows of an American Airlines flight from Maui to Los Angeles on Tuesday. The plane was diverted to Honolulu, and the child was taken into custody.

The boy also became “physical” with his mother during the tantrum. Video shows a member of the cabin crew being assisted by passengers in restraining the child.

According to American Airlines,

Customers were reaccommodated on other flights or provided hotel accommodations. Safety and security is our top priority, and we apologize to our customers for any inconvenience this caused.

It’s unclear what prompted the incident. I’m inclined to give a lot of latitude to crew when there’s a genuine safety incident on board. What’s shocking about this incident is that it’s a child being restrained by duct tape, as opposed to a perpetrator of sexual assault>

(HT: C Boarding Group)

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Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I feel sorry for the kid’s parents. No matter what the background this must have been an awful situation for everybody concerned.

  2. Those of us who are beyond a certain age know full well what would have happened to us if we had pulled such a stunt with either of our parents.
    Time Out. What a concept……………………………..

  3. Stephen…my guess is this child (and 13 year olds can be pretty strong) had some issues well-known to his parent(s) and if they believed their child could be a problem on board, they should not have risked the safety of all by taking him on such a trip. He presented a serious safety risk to crew and passengers. I’m sure it is not what crewmembers wish to encounter or have to deal with, and the duct tape was the safest and most compassionate way to control /restrain they had. It’s sad all the way around, but the ripple effects impacted the bottom line and I’m not sure that the family should be off scott free. Taking some responsibility in the first place would have prevented the whole episode. While I feel for that child and their family, there is much more we will never know…what if someone on board that was diverted by a night was missing saying good bye to a dying relative in hospice…many unknowns. Also not sure if it is physically possible to kick an airliner window out…but he was apparently beating up on his mom as well. Hope someone has a better answer as to how to deal with situation….

  4. What does it exactly mean that he was taken in to custody? Was he arrested and charged with a crime as a juvenile? Just detained by LEO’s? Civil commitment and taken to a hospital, similar to taking someone by law enforcement in to “protective custody”? I also wonder what they did with him and his family once the dust settled?

    Also I read it may be nearly impossible to kick out an airplane window, but I don’t know for sure?

    Finally another comment I read said AA should bring back MRTC!

  5. I am curious also if they document the family PNR or if they have another internal procedure where the PNR is not annotated with what happened?

    Hopefully LiveATC will come up with some audio.
    Here’s the flifo:

    OGG 1240P
    HNL 21 C7 350P 1230P E7
    LAX T5C5 T5 54B 907P
    4OGG/OUT1230 OFF1244 *1744
    2HNL/IN1550 *2054
    2LAX/PRE2109 *2157

  6. This is sad but the safety of the other passenger it had to be done. I am sure this is not what the crew or anyone else wanted to see happen. They did their best to keep the kid, the other passengers safe. It sound horible but it is want needed to be done.

  7. Not sure it’s possible to kick out a window or even crack it, but I’m not willing to be part of a live experiment where you test if it’s possible.

    As far as continuing after he’s restrained, I’m sure the policy in any such situation is to head for the nearest airport and get rid of the problem so either they are no longer in danger or they’re not a danger to anyone else. If they had been closer to a mainland airport, they would have gone there.

  8. Re: “Once the kid is restrained is there any danger in continuing to the destination?” yes, of course there’s danger. There’s danger in everything we do. As far as added risk due to restraint, yes that’s also true. But that added risk is weighed against the added risk of no restraint (of the child injuring himself AND of injuries to others and damaging the aircraft). Hospitals have very detailed procedures for physical and chemical restraints “for the patient’s own protection” which include checking the patient and vital signs every hour or 2 and often constant 1 to 1 observation.

    As far as added risk from restraints while feet wet (over water) far from land for a prolonged time, as we used to say “if someone gets injured in the middle of the ocean severely enough to require Medevac and then the Medevac helicopter crashes in the ocean while enroute to a land hospital and the patient drowns because the stretcher does not have appropriate flotation devices, consider that it just wasn’t the patient’s day and his/her time had come.” 🙂

  9. This is such a perfect example of a hidden disability. It’s awful that people automatically think that the kid isn’t properly taken care of by his parents. My heart goes out to the mother for all the vitriol that people sent her way. You never know why someone behaves badly … unless it’s a drunk or drugged adult of course. Be a little more kind to your fellow man.

  10. It was an autistic child. Somehow I don’t think duct tape was the appropriate response here. For what it is worth AA issued a statement claiming they only used flexicuffs but the video clearly has their crew with duct tape. It is kind of stunning that after all the incidents airlines still aren’t properly handling these incidents. Guess we will have to wait until they improperly restrain somebody and it leads to a death of the passenger. Good luck to the airline claiming that it was unforeseen. They should have the appropriate equipment and restraint training to handle this. Anything else is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

  11. So if you hook up with an AA flight attendant, how long before the duct tape comes out?

  12. It’s amazing the superb value American provides to its autistic flyers: our staff reports that the duct tape provided is worth approximately $7. However, this young traveler could get the most out of his next adventure with the Citi ® / AAdvantage ® Platinum Select ® World Elite Mastercard [insert referral link here], which, in addition to the other benefits we’ve detailed here, allows cardholders to reserve the duct tape they prefer immediately after Oneworld Ruby passengers make their choice.

  13. If this is not a case of simple thuggery that is common with certain youths, this is a sad situation. It’s either mental illness/handicap or emotional control issues. We could be upset at the 13 year old but if it’s one of the two conditions above, he was born that way. It’s possible a parent was taking an autistic to or from somewhere and the kid had an outburst. Violent autistics can be very dangerous. They don’t really mean to harm anyone. They can’t process what they are doing. Parents should know how to best calm him down but in an environment with a lot of people it can be challenging. Windows are strong and double paned but I understand cabin crew not taking chances with windows.

    The criminal justice system often does not properly differentiate between mental illness/emotional disturbance versus criminality. A 13 year old who is trying to kick out a window on a pressurized plane he is in is not stealing, vandalizing, raping, infringing on fundamental freedoms like cops who enforce leftist laws, or burglarizing. Cops often improperly respond to people with emotional disturbance. When they say they took him into custody, hopefully they mean took him to evaluate him and talk with the parents.

    There is no solution, however. Those mental health advocates who say we need more mental health funding aren’t honest that most of these conditions can’t be cured or adequately remedied. Medication (with side effects) to inhibit a person is really all they can do. Therapy doesn’t fix genetics. It’s just like with trillions of more funding for schools for certain groups. It’s not going to help if the students have IQs of a banana. $ Trillions does not change genetics.

  14. “When they say they took him into custody, hopefully they mean took him to evaluate him and talk with the parents.” I would think they took him to a hospital or something. If some cop arrested a 13 year old autistic child that cop needs to be immediately fired.

  15. He lost it when they told him there was no food for purchase.

    Passengers are basically treated as caged animals now.

  16. @TPG: In the future, when being forcibly restrained to your seat for in-flight misbehaving, as an elite passenger benefit, I expect American Airlines will offer Executive Platinum, Platinum Pro, Platinum, and oneworld® elite members their choice of a contemporary selection of 36 different colors of duct tape.

  17. Kudos to airline. Absolutely did what is best. They were responsible for that plane and all passengers. They took that responsibility seriously and took action to protect everyone including that kid.

  18. guess we’ll have to wait until parents get through their heads the reality of the situation is their child is not capable of traveling on an aircraft. It’s sad for sure, but they need to comprehend the safety of a flightful of passengers and crew are at risk.

  19. It’s truly pathetic what a number of people have said here. I think I would feel safer flying with this kid in the cabin than with some of the sick people who have posted ridiculous comments here about this sad situation.

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