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'Worried for the safety of other passengers': Ontario mother speaks out after special needs son is kicked off Swoop flight

Elisabetta Bianchini
A Swoop Boeing 737-800 plane with identification C-FLSF landing at Edmonton International Airport. Swoop is operated by Westjet
A Swoop Boeing 737-800 plane with identification C-FLSF landing at Edmonton International Airport. Swoop is operated by Westjet

Canadians airline Swoop is facing criticism after it was revealed that a special needs man was removed from a flight from Hamilton, Ont., to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Andrea Iavarone posted a video of her son Nicco on Instagram from the Hamilton airport on Nov. 1, stating that he was kicked off of a flight.

“Nicco is a special needs child who is just kicked off swoop airlines because they say he is violent… And they were concerned about the safety of other passengers even though he had the window seat and his mother was sitting next to him at the time . Shocked and in disbelief. Please share this post as this is discrimination in the worst way,” Iavarone said in the caption.

In a statement to Yahoo Canada she confirmed that Nicco is non verbal and autistic, also missing a piece of one of his chromosomes. She explained that when they boarded the plane, her son became “agitated,” and starting pulling her hair and hit her. The flight attendant then decided to remove them from the aircraft.

“I am in no way trying to say he was perfectly behaved on the plane however I don’t feel it was in anyway fair of them to anticipate the worst for the duration of the flight,” Iavarone said.

“We have flown Swoop many times and never have we ever been spoken to about his behaviour nor told we would not be allowed to fly with them.”

Iavarone said the flight attendant told her the crew was “worried for the safety of other passengers.”

“I stated he cannot reach another passenger if he tried as he is seated in the window seat and belted into a seatbelt which he cannot undo,” she said. “I told her he has flown many times and once we got up in the air he would be fine...he has never harmed any passenger on a flight ever.”

Iavarone was able to speak to a supervisor when she got off the plane at the Hamilton airport, who agreed to a flight credit for her travel but not for Nicco’s. After Iavarone posted the video on Instagram from the airport, people quickly started commenting on the post in support of Andrea and Nicco, condemning Swoop’s actions.

“This is how you represent paying customers by kicking them off the flight.. WE PAY YOU!!,” one commenting wrote.

“This is shameful, Nicco is a human and deserves to be treated with the same respect as anyone,” another commenter wrote on Instagram.

Later that day, Swoop emailed Iavarone and refunded both tickets but she had to purchase new airfare through Air Canada to fly from Toronto to Fort Myers, Florida.

“Air Canada offered to assist me in anyway they could to make my flight easier,” she said. “They were wonderful.”

After being asked to confirm this incident Swoop provided the following statement to Yahoo Canada:

“Swoop is entrusted to ensure the safety and security of all its travellers and employees, and has established policies to meet this obligation.”

Iavarone said there are a lot of people with special needs like Nicco and hopes there is a change in protocol so flight crews are better trained to deal with all passengers.

According to the Hamilton Spectator, Iavarone’s husband, Albert, was killed in 2018 by a gunman outside his home in Ancaster, Ont. Officials believe the murder may be connected to organized crime.