Girl Kicked Off Plane for Coughing

By: AP edited by Marguerite Jordan Email
By: AP edited by Marguerite Jordan Email

March 29

HONOLULU -Rachel Collier arrived in Honolulu on Wednesday, a day after she was removed from the Continental Airlines plane as it was about to leave Newark, New Jersey, for Honolulu. The teen had caught a cold during a school spring break trip to Washington, D.C., and New York. She fell asleep on the plane and woke up coughing and gasping for breath as it was about to take off.

"Everyone was looking at me," Collier said. "I couldn't talk because I lost my voice coughing so much. I was panicking."

The flight attendants gave her water and a doctor on the flight said she would be OK to make the 10-hour flight. But the captain returned the aircraft to the gate to drop off Collier and one of her teachers, Maile Kawamura.

"The captain said I had to get off the plane and I started crying," Collier said.

The 39 other students returned to Hawaii.

Kawamura said she was shocked because they did not know what to do or where to stay. They finally found accommodations in New York City and bought clothes and toiletries.

Continental said in a statement that Collier was coughing "uncontrollably" and that "the captain felt he was acting in the best interest of the passenger and other passengers on the flight."

"I felt it was really extreme for a coughing fit," said Stephanie Collier, the teen's mother. "We've all had coughing fits."

Stephanie Collier said Continental has agreed to reimburse her daughter's expenses incurred during the extra day, including hotel.

She said the airline could have handled the situation differently, but understands its position of wanting to protect everyone's safety.

Despite the incident, the teen told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin that she still plans to take another Continental flight next week to Egypt with a friend to attend a wedding.

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