Boy with serious illness kicked off Southwest flight

Posted at: 06/27/2013 7:01 PM
By: Erica Zucco, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Michael Ruiz
Michael Ruiz

Michael Ruiz looks like any 10-year-old boy, but that wasn’t the case before.

"Michael has worked himself from a wheelchair,” Michael’s mom Lisa Ruiz said, “from not even being able to move the right side of his body.”

Michael has cerebral cavernous malformation. That means blood vessels in his brain can leak, causing seizures and strokes.

“We almost lost Michael back in September,” Lisa Ruiz said. “And we're at risk of losing Michael every day.”

Changes in atmospheric pressure can cause changes in the brain’s blood pressure. That was a concern for Michael on a flight to Albuquerque, so his mom told attendants at check-in and the gate about his illness. She says her son was cleared to board, but after they got on the plane, a flight attendant told them his condition was a liability.

"They said that we could not travel and then she was saying we should drive,” Lisa Ruiz said.

They were kicked off the plane. Not sure what to do next, Lisa Ruiz called his pediatrician. Michael’s doctor faxed a medical release and the family was eventually put on a later plane, but Michael’s mom feels it was handled wrong.

Southwest Airlines provided KOB Eyewitness News 4 with the following statement:

“As with every Customer we fly, our focus is on safely transporting everyone and maintaining the safe operation of the flight.

Federal regulations clearly spell out that carriers may require a Customer whose medical condition causes reasonable doubt of safely being able to complete the flight 

without requiring extraordinary medical assistance in the air, to present a medical certificate clearing them to fly.

Our Contract of Carriage also notes that we may refuse to transport any Passenger who cannot be transported safely for any reason.  In the case of this Customer, information relayed by his mother to our Employees indicated that he may not be able to travel without requiring medical intervention.  As such, our Employees requested that he obtain clearance to travel and rebooked him and his mother on a later flight.

Our Customer Advocacy team plans to reach to the mother soon to clarify the regulations and our policies and to express our regrets over the unexpected delay in the family's safe return home.”