Thursday, March 29, 2007

Pilot Orders Coughing Student Off Flight

An airline pilot on Tuesday ordered a 16-year-old student from Hawaii off an East Coast flight after a coughing fit.

Rachel Collier was on a spring break trip with Kalani High School, reported television station KITV in Honolulu.

The girl's classmates returned home to Honolulu on Tuesday night, but Collier remained on the East Coast.

Collier was having a great spring break on a school trip to New York and Washington, her mother said. The trip was her first without her parents.

The fun turned into fear when she was kicked off a Continental Airlines flight headed for home.

"The police were called. The ambulance, the paramedics were called. She had fallen asleep in her seat and woke up coughing and a whole bunch of people standing around her, and was asked to leave the plane," Collier's mother, Stephanie, said.

Teacher Maile Kawamura said a doctor traveling on the plane checked Rachel Collier and said she was fine, had no fever and did not pose a threat to other passengers.

Despite that, the family was told, the pilot insisted Collier leave the plane.

"Upon boarding the plane (she) was asked to leave by the pilot because she had a little bit of a coughing spell," Stephanie Collier said.

Rachel Collier and her teacher were left to find their own hotel for the night and had to buy clothes and toothbrushes because their luggage was already on the plane.

"I'm frustrated. I'm really, really frustrated," Stephanie Collier said. "Why they would do that, especially with two teachers escorting 40 children across the United States, and for the pilot to make that kind of decision."

A day before the incident, 272 passengers aboard a Continental flight from Hong Kong were detained in Newark amid fears of bird flu.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials quickly determined some passengers had a "seasonal flu."

KITV's calls to Continental were not immediately returned.

Stephanie Collier said she spoke with someone at Continental who said the matter would be dealt with internally.

Rachel Collier and her teacher are scheduled to return to Hawaii on Wednesday evening.

Distributed by Internet Broadcasting.

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