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'They treated us like we were criminals': Houston mother removed from flight after breastfeeding her
Mei Rui, a cancer researcher and concert pianist, boarded a Spirit Airlines flight from Houston to Newark on Friday night with her 2-year-old son, mother and father. - photo by Herb Scribner

A mother from Houston was asked to leave a Spirit Airlines flight after breastfeeding her son.

Mei Rui, a cancer researcher and concert pianist, boarded a Spirit Airlines flight from Houston to Newark on Friday night with her 2-year-old son, mother and father.

Weather delayed the flight, so Rui decided to breastfeed her son so that he would fall asleep and wouldn’t cry during the flight, according to The Washington Post.

“Every parent with a young child can image, you don’t want to be that parent on the plane,” she told The Washington Post. “It would be very embarrassing. I was just trying to avoid that.”

Rui said flight attendants walked by and asked her to buckle her son in for the flight, but she begged them to let her finish feeding him so that he wouldn’t disturb the plane.

The flight attendants gathered at the front of the plane before asking Rui to leave the plane. Police officers met Rui at the end of the Jetway with her crying son and she was not allowed back on board, according to The Washington Post.

Rui said she didn’t understand why she was asked to get off the plane. Videos of the incident show authorities not answering that question.

Spirit Airlines released a statement to KHOU describing the incident.

“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. 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.”

Rui told the Post she couldn’t believe this happened to her.

“They treated us like we were criminals,” she told the Post. “A baby crying is not a crime.”

The incident comes after a year of several incidents of passengers forcibly removed from their flights. Most recently, was a woman caught smoking on a Southwest flight from Portland to Sacramento on Saturday threatened to “kill everyone on this plane,” according to KOIN-6, an Oregon news station.

Southwest Airlines said in a statement that the woman, later identified as Valerie Curbelo, tampered with the plane’s smoke detector so she could smoke in the bathroom.

“The safety of our crew and passengers is our top priority and we take all threats seriously,” the statement said. “The pilots declared an emergency to receive priority handling from air traffic controllers, and our crew handled the situation onboard until the plane landed and local authorities stepped in. The flight carried 136 customers and a crew of five.”

A video of the scuffle showed a woman restrained by passengers and the crew over a 30-minute time span, CBS 13 reported.

In April, United Airlines removed passenger Dr. David Dao after he refused to give up his seat. Southwest Airlines made headlines in September after forcibly removing a woman who complained about dogs on the plane.

One incident included a Utah couple, who was removed after switching seats on a plane. The couple spotted a sleeping man in their seats, so they switched into some open ones before they were asked to leave the flight.