On Monday, Talia Tallman, 32, a stay-at-home mom in Delray Beach, Fla., was traveling to Los Angeles with her mother, husband, and three children ages 2, 3, and 8 via Spirit Airlines. In July, middle child Escher was diagnosed with a rare cancer called spindle cell rhabdomyosarcoma and is getting treated at a Los Angeles hospital. “Escher just had surgery, and we had a follow-up appointment Tuesday in L.A.,” Tallman tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
The family arrived at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport at 7 p.m. for their 9 p.m. flight, and after waiting in a long security line and being directed to a new gate that Tallman says “was almost a mile away from security,” she asked her mom to run to the gate while the family walked behind with their carry-on bags.
According to Tallman, her mother arrived at the gate at 8:50 and informed the attendants that the rest of the family would arrive momentarily. She was told, “They have 30 seconds to get here.” And when Tallman’s mom walked a few steps away to check on her family, the gates closed.
Panicked at the idea of her checked luggage containing Escher’s cancer medication flying to California without the family, Tallman’s husband banged on the sealed gate door and yelled for someone to open it.
“We were told that since we didn’t arrive at the gate 15 minutes prior to takeoff, that we couldn’t have gotten on the flight,” says Tallman, adding that fellow passengers rallied around her family, offering cash and toys.
Right after the incident, Tallman vented in a Facebook Live video, which was viewed more than 4,000 times. Her supporters called the airline “disgusting” and “rude.”
A Spirit Airlines representative sent the following statement to Yahoo Lifestyle: “While we are sorry for the inconvenience to this Guest and her family, our records show they were not present at the gate when the flight closed. Our team made every effort to hold the flight for as long as possible. Ultimately, the flight had to take-off to ensure a timely arrival for our other Guests waiting on board.”
The Tallmans rescheduled their doctor’s appointment for Wednesday, and Spirit Airlines gave them five $50 travel vouchers and placed them on a Wednesday flight to Los Angeles.
Tallman acknowledges that she arrived at the last minute, and while she understands airport protocol, she says the treatment she received from Spirit was “not humane.”
“We are living every parent’s worst nightmare,” she says of her son’s condition. “The people who could have made a big impact had zero compassion.”
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