A Houston mom says she was kicked off a Spirit Airlines flight after trying to breastfeed her son before putting him in his seat for takeoff.
Mei Rui, a cancer researcher and pianist, was traveling to New York with her 2-year-old son and elderly parents to work on a cancer research trial. To settle him down before the flight, she started to nurse her son while, she claims, the cabin doors were still open. She says the flight attendants told her to put him in his seat, and denied Rui’s request for a few minutes to finish breastfeeding.
A spokesperson for Spirit tells PEOPLE that Rui was not removed for breastfeeding her son, but for refusing to listen to the flight attendants.
“I said as soon as your plane doors are closed, I’ll put him in his seat,” Rui said to KHOU about the incident. “You just don’t have to treat people that way.”
But Spirit disagrees with Rui’s timeline of events.
“The reports from the crew indicate the door was closed at the time of the incident,” the Spirit spokesperson says. “The passenger failed to comply with crew instructions by not being safely buckled and secured for takeoff after being asked repeatedly to do so.”
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Rui did eventually put her son in his seat, and he started crying — as shown in a video recording — but the flight attendants still removed the family from the plane. Rui continued to film as a member of the flight crew talked to her outside the gate.
“So you’re saying you can get rid of a family because a toddler was crying?” she asked.
“I didn’t say that. You were not compliant with flight crew instruction,” the Spirit representative responded.
In a statement to PEOPLE, Spirit says it was necessary to remove the Rui family as a safety concern.
“We were forced to remove a passenger from flight 712 after they refused to comply with crew instructions several times while the doors were closed during taxi and safety briefing. To ensure the safety of our guests and crew, FAA regulations and airline policies require all passengers stay seated and buckled during takeoff and landing. We reviewed multiple accounts from the crew and other guests sitting nearby and we apologize for any inconvenience caused by this issue. As a courtesy, we’ve issued a full refund to the customer in question.”
Rui said that she’s still unclear as to what her family did wrong.
“He was making a lot of noise, but that’s not criminal,” she said of her son, to KHOU. “It’s humiliating, in from of hundreds of people, to be chased off a plane. We’re not lawbreakers or trouble seekers. We’re a family of seniors and a mother and a baby, why did they have to treat us this way?”
Rui said she accepted the ticket refund, but will not fly on Spirit again.