JetBlue passenger removed from flight after medical overshare with flight crew

Juan Cintron doesn’t like being around kids, especially on airplanes. And let’s face it, that’s not an unpopular position.

But Cintron’s dislike for children puts him in a special category — it got him kicked off a JetBlue flight.

If you’ve ever been removed from a flight — and I hope you haven’t — you know that no matter what the reason for removal, it’s always embarrassing. Cintron wants our help getting compensation from the airline, which he said “humiliated” him in front of a plane full of passengers.

And it leaves us wondering: Did JetBlue do the right thing?

Well, it’s not quite that simple. Cintron didn’t just complain about being seated next to kids. In a moment of panic, he blurted out to the flight crew that he can’t sit next to children because he has bipolar disorder, didn’t have his medication and couldn’t be held responsible for his behavior.

And that admission earned him special treatment from JetBlue.

Cintron was abruptly escorted off the plane, being forced to do the “walk of shame,” as he calls it. He was placed on standby for the morning flight to New York.

On top of the embarrassment of being removed from the plane, Cintron said JetBlue treated him like he was a threat. And because he was on his way home, he didn’t have any cash on him for a taxi. The airline didn’t offer him ground transportation or overnight accommodations.

Once home, Cintron complained to JetBlue that the treatment he received from cabin crew showed insensitivity to his disability.

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Cintron’s biggest complaint is the lack of care demonstrated by the flight crew in removing him from the flight. “I was taken off the plane like a pile of the day’s trash,” he recalls. “No one would help me. No one would talk to me. No sensitivity to how I felt.”

His experience sounds painful and we certainly sympathize. But did JetBlue do anything wrong?

Before Cintron contacted us, he wrote to JetBlue several times to express his disappointment in the airline. The airline told him that the crew members, who are empowered to protect the safety of flight, made the decision to remove him after Cintron made statements that he didn’t have his prescribed medication and couldn’t be responsible for his actions.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, bipolar disorder is characterized by dramatic mood shifts that are more severe than the normal ups and downs experienced by everyone. In addition to his potential unpredictable mood swings, Cintron told the flight crew he couldn’t be seated near children.

The first priority of the flight crew is to the safety of the passengers and crew. If Cintron’s statements to the flight crew suggested that he requires medication to control his behavior and that he didn’t have the prescribed medication with him, the decision to remove him from the flight seems reasonable.

After all, managing a problem on the ground is much easier than dealing with a situation at 37,000 feet.

JetBlue says it cannot guarantee who a customer may be seated next to, unless the customer purchases an extra seat, which can remain unassigned.

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JetBlue also maintains that it did not discriminate against Cintron for his disability. The Air Carrier Access Act prohibits discrimination against travelers with disabilities, but JetBlue’s decision to remove Cintron doesn’t seem so much discriminatory as it was a measured response to the situation Cintron presented. His words — not his disability — triggered his removal.

And speaking of his disability, we never learned why Cintron didn’t have his prescribed medication. If he has anxiety in flight — as many people do — shouldn’t being prepared with necessary medication be part of his travel plans?

Cintron said that he was deeply affected by this experience and, from a psychological standpoint, spent the evening in a very dark place. Naturally, we are very sorry to hear this. When thinking back on his experience with JetBlue, he says, “I have never dealt with such uncaring people in my life.”

JetBlue declined to compensate Cintron for the emotional suffering he experienced following his removal from the flight. Because he flew home the next day, the company also declined to refund his airfare. The airline did, as a gesture of goodwill, reimburse Cintron the $85 for his hotel that night.

Did JetBlue overreact when it removed Cintron from the flight?

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Jessica Monsell

A writer and natural advocate, Jessica joined our consumer advocacy effort following a decade of work on behalf of air crash victims at one of the nation's largest plaintiffs' law firms. She has lived in Europe and Asia, but now calls Charleston, S.C. home.

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