Infant Overheats On United Airlines Aircraft For Two Hours
Emily France, 39, feels United Airlines should have better measures in place to accommodate passengers if a flight is delayed the the aircraft becomes dangerously overheated and passengers are stuck idle for hours. Her infant son, Owen, was overcome with heat exhaustion on a delayed flight in Denver last Thursday after passengers were forced to wait almost two hours on the tarmac at Denver International Airport. When France reported her child’s condition, it took an additional half hour for an ambulance to arrive. First responders discovered Owen weak and short of breath. France had put wet wipes on his neck and shirt in an effort to cool him down, to no avail.
“They were not equipped to handle it,” France said of the conditions on the United flight. “They couldn’t evacuate us. It was chaos. I really thought my son was going to die in my arms.” After the baby became warmer and warmer, crew members allowed the pair to exit the aircraft for 20 minutes, but they were soon called back for takeoff. Shockingly, as soon as they returned to their seats, the crew made a unexpected announcement that bad weather on the route had forced the pilot to seek an alternate, which would require more fuel. The flight was further delayed, going on two hours, while crew members added the needed amount for takeoff. “We just sat and sat and sat,” the woman said. “I hit my call button and said, “I think it’s getting dangerously hot back here.” Crew members brought bags of ice. Another woman with an infant stripped her child of his clothes and was holding one of the bags on the baby’s chest.
Owen, who was accompanying his mother on a visit to his father for a rocket launch, would not cool down despite the efforts. “His whole body flashed red and his eyes rolled back in his head and he was screaming,” France said. “And then he went limp in my arms. It was the worst moment of my life.” She cried as they sat and waited for the door to open for them to exit. The child was treated at Children’s Hospital. Doctors couldn’t find any underlying conditions that would have triggered the his heat exhaustion. However, temperatures outside reached 90 degrees that morning and the aircraft simply did not have an adequate way to deter the heat wave. France claimed the flight was too hot when they initially boarded. “There was just hot air coming from the vents,” she said.
An emailed communication from United read, “A child onboard flight 4644 at Denver International Airport experienced a medical issue while the aircraft was taxiing prior to takeoff. The pilot returned to the gate as our crew called for paramedics to meet the aircraft. Our thoughts are with the child and family, and we have been in contact to offer travel assistance.” However, France claimed, “No one from the airline has called to see if my son is okay. It can’t be that often infants are evacuated by ambulances from their airplanes. You’d think it would be on somebody’s desk.” France said her and the child are both still recovering emotionally from the ordeal and are second-guessing plans to visit family over the July 4th weekend, because they would have to get back into a plane.