As her 4-year-old autistic son began to scream, kick, and pull hair just before take-off, fighting his way out of his seat, Lori Gabriel braced for the worst, worried they were going to be kicked off their flight home.
But by the end of the three-and-a-half-hour United Airlines flight from San Diego to Houston, clutching a hand-written note of encouragement from the passenger in seat 7D, her faith in the kindness of strangers had been restored.
Gabriel took to social media to sing the praises of the United Airline crew and the patient passengers onboard, showing photographs of her son lying down in the aisle with a blanket and sitting at the end of the cabin.
***Please share****So my little flyer (he’s autistic but normally loves to fly) didn’t have such a good flight home. …
Her son, Braysen, normally loves to fly, said Gabriel. But that evening of Aug. 6, it was impossible to get him to stay seated, she said—he wanted to sit on the floor in the hall and in first-class, and refused to stay in his seat.
“It was impossible to restrain him,” she told CNN. “He was fighting both me and his father. It took the both of us to try to get him back to his chair and get his seat belt back on. He started kicking, screaming, and hitting,” said Gabriel. “That’s when a flight attendant came over and told us the flight couldn’t take off until he’s seated.”
“I said, ‘I am sorry.’ I told her he’s autistic,” she said.
Gabriel told Fox she was braced to be kicked off the flight “since he wouldn’t sit down and I would have understood that because it’s a safety issue.”
Two flight crew members then came over to help, allowing her to hold Braysen—still mid-meltdown—on her lap during take-off.
She said after the seat belt sign had been turned off, “I just couldn’t hold him anymore because he was fighting me the entire time and that’s when he sat on the floor.”
He even kicked a passenger nearby.
“I’m thinking these people are probably thinking I’m on the worst flight. They’re probably regretting they took this flight,” Gabriel told KHOU.
But she needn’t have worried.
As she sat on the floor massaging Braysen’s legs, Gabriel said the woman he had kicked, who turned out to be a United employee, made no fuss.
“The flight attendants, three of them, they were like, ‘What can we get for you?’” Gabriel said. “’What can we do for you?’”
The crew allowed Braysen to lie in an aisle for a while before he headed into first-class where he sat with a flight attendant and a male passenger, she told KHOU.
“To the man in first-class seat 6C, you rock. Thanks for playing with Braysen and not minding him kicking your seat or messing with you! He loved your high fives!”
Gabriel shared her online praise with the airline, which responded on Twitter: “It sure sounds like Braysen and your family had a great flight. We are happy that our crew was able to make it an enjoyable experience. We are overjoyed to see that we have such loving and supportive passengers on board as well! We look forward to seeing Braysen again soon!”
It sure sounds like Braysen and your family had a great flight. We are happy that our crew was able to make it an enjoyable experience. We are overjoyed to see that we have such loving and supportive passengers on board as well! We look forward to seeing Braysen again soon! ^KG
— United Airlines (@united) August 7, 2019
As Gabriel got off the plane, the woman in seat 7D gave her a note scribbled on a page torn from an in-flight magazine.
“I commend you for your strength,” the letter said. “Do not ever let anyone make you feel as though you are an inconvenience or a burden. He is a blessing. God bless your patience, your love, your support, and your strength. Continue to be a Super Woman and know that you and your family are loved and supported. Love, the United family.”
Gabriel shared the note online, where it was seen by the woman who had written it, Camille Vaughn.
“Blessed to have met your family and made a difference,” wrote Vaughn. “Thank you for sharing and I hope to one day see you again!”
Gabriel told CNN it was the first time she had experienced people being so understanding of her son’s autism. “It’s very promising, we don’t have to care about what other people think because there are people who are caring, who understand. It gives me a lot of hope for the future.”
“I just never had so many strangers be so kind,” Gabriel told Fox News.
“It shows me that there are still good people in the world. It shows me that me and my family can go on vacations, we can go where all other families go. We can go anywhere, theme parks, we can do anything anyone else can because there are people who are caring and understanding.”