Pamela Root's 2-year-old son was screaming for the Southwest Airlines plane to "Go! Plane! Go!"
"I want Daddy!" he shouted. Over and over again.
Despite her embarrassment, the stay-at-home mom remained confident that once the plane took off and she fed him, Adam would calm down and take a nap — just as he had on the half-dozen other plane rides with Mom.
However, the flight crew was not willing to find out.
Root and her son, Adam, were on their way home to San Jose on Monday when they were kicked off Southwest Flight 637.
"I left, rather embarrassed," Root said Thursday. "Then, I was so mad, I almost cried."
With her luggage heading back home without her, Root was stuck in Amarillo, Texas, and was forced to buy a portable crib and diapers and stay another night with her parents. Still fuming, she wants Southwest to apologize and compensate her for the flight and things she bought. Adam's father, Mike, who was waiting for them in San Jose, also is livid.
Southwest, with its fun and family-friendly reputation, immediately began looking into the matter Thursday at the request of Bay Area News Group. Spokeswoman Marilee McInnis said it is "very rare" to ask someone to leave a flight, and especially "unusual" to remove a crying child.
Pamela Root, 38, said she thought she had a foolproof flying routine with her son. She would wait until takeoff to feed Adam so his ears wouldn't hurt. Then, she would get him to take a nap. The routine always made him a bit cranky but never out of control, she said. There was always the bag of trucks and books about trucks for a backup.
Monday, Adam was more than a little cranky. There were annoyed looks from fellow passengers, she said. Then the captain made a surprise announcement: The plane would return to the gate because of a "passenger issue." At first, she dreaded what sounded like a delay. Then, she discovered the passenger was Adam. Suddenly, they were being escorted off the plane by an attendant who told Root something to the effect of: "We just can't tolerate that for two hours."
"He'll be fine once we take off," Root remembers insisting.
"We've heard that before," the flight attendant told Root.
Like most other airlines, Southwest gives its flight attendants discretion in determining what constitutes a "safe and comfortable" flight, McInnis said. In addition, they give attendants leeway in figuring out how to "resolve" situations.
Other airlines have similar rules. United Airlines spokeswoman Sarah Massier said the airline has three pages of what they call "right-of-refusal" reasons. "But no," she said. "We don't have a policy on crying children."
Yes, she's mortified, but Root admits to learning a lesson herself. When she rebooked her flight home Tuesday, she chose a 5 p.m. departure and fed Adam well before takeoff. How did he do?
"He had his moments," she said. "I warned him what would happen if he acted up, that we'd get kicked off the plane."
But soon enough, a nap kicked in and "he behaved beautifully."
Reach Lisa Fernandez at 408-920-5002.