Eight-year-old Nicholas Dainiak, from New Hampshire, is blind and can't speak. He suffers from an illness called Batten's disease, which means he also can't hold his body upright. Recently, his parents took him to Disney World to try and bring him some joy. But on the way back, all they got was grief from a Southwest Airlines staff member regarding Nicholas's special chair.
When his parents strapped him into his protective seat, an airline staff member approached the family concerned that the chair may not be FAA approved to be on the plane.
Rather than miss the flight, the Dainiaks relented and handed over the chair. Nicholas’ parents held their son in an upright position for the entire three hour flight.
Nicholas's parents posted pictures on their blog -- a charity for Batten's disease -- showing how the young child was forced to sit for the flight:
Since the incident, Southwest has apologized to the family and issued them full refunds, according to a statement to MyFoxBoston.com. That statement also said the company is looking to learn from what happened.
"We are working directly with the family after sincerely apologizing and issuing a full refund for their less than positive travel experience," the statement says. "We certainly will take away any potential learnings from this experience in our constant evaluation of how to provide the best possible Customer Service, which is second only to the Safety of every passenger.”
"We feel terrible for what Nicholas had to go through, but we also understand that other Batten families likely struggle with similar situations," Nicholas's dad, Chris, wrote on the blog. "We hope that by being open with these events, it will shed some light on what some people with disabilities encounter."
You can learn more about Batten's disease in a video posted by the family regarding Nicholas's story:
The parents' charity is called Our Promise to Nicholas.