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Nearly every flight has one: a cranky, tired child. But the crying toddler belonging to Canadian musician Sarah Blackwood reportedly led one United Airlines crew to kick mom and child off a plane this week.
Blackwood, who is seven months pregnant with her second child, had just boarded a United Airlines flight Wednesday from San Francisco to Vancouver when her 23-month-old started acting up. The Walk Off the Earth singer admitted her son was “crying really loud” as the plane began to taxi down the runway.
She said she was trying to calm him down on her lap when two flight attendants approached her.
“They said, ‘If you can’t control your child, we’re going to have to turn the plane around and ask you to leave,’” she told TODAY.com. “I was welling up with tears because it’s already really frustrating having to deal with that. You’re already embarrassed because you know everyone around you is thinking that this kid is never going to stop and he’s super loud.”
Her son soon fell asleep, just as Blackwood expected.
“He was pretty much knocked out cold,” she said.
But minutes later, the plane had returned to the airport terminal. An airport official from United entered the plane and escorted Blackwood and her still-sleeping son off the plane.
“There were a couple of people who actually stood up when it was happening and said, 'This is ridiculous. You can’t kick her off the plane because her son was crying,'” she said.
SkyWest Airlines, which operated the United flight, said Blackwood was asked to leave the plane because she failed to secure her child.
“Safety is paramount, particularly when it comes to our tiniest travelers," the airline said in a statement. "Out of concern for her son’s safety during taxi and before take-off, the flight crew complied with federal regulations requiring all passengers to be securely seated for take-off by removing Ms. Blackwood and her son from the flight."
Marissa Snow, a SkyWest spokeswoman, elaborated by saying the toddler was not in his seat while taxiing.
“The child was repeatedly in the aisle prior to take off,” she said.
Blackwood denied the claim. She pointed out that she and her son, considered an infant who can fly on a parent’s lap, were seated by a window.
“I was sitting beside a gentlemen who I don’t even know, so in order for my son to be in the aisle, he would have had to climb over that man, which he wouldn’t do,” she said. “He’s a shy little boy. He’s not the type to climb over someone he doesn’t know.”
Snow stood by the airline’s statement and insisted “the crying did not factor into the decision” to turn the plane around.
“Returning to the gate is utilized as a last resort, absolutely,” she said. “By law, a flight cannot take off until passengers are seated.”
Blackwood and her son, Giorgio Michael, were traveling with the boy’s nanny, but the two adults could not get seated together. All three were rebooked on a later flight.
“It was just a mess. It was just a crazy travel day,” she said.
Blackwood tweeted about the incident in a series of posts, prompting outrage from fans and strangers alike.
The story quickly went viral, with people expressing their outrage to United Airlines via social media.
“As a long time United customer, I have dealt with many crying children, seat kicking children and really rude flight attendants. For you to kick a woman with a crying squirming child off a plane because the flight attendants felt 'unsafe' is truly sad,” wrote Annie-Jussaino Humiston on United’s Facebook page. “Remove the flight attendant who can not do their job of customer service... I will not fly United again.”
Craig Minielly added: “Do us all a favour — Close up, go away, and leave the friendly skies to humans,”
Blackwood said she appreciates people sticking up for her because she didn't want to create a bigger scene at the time.
“I don’t like to put up a fuss about things. I don’t argue," she said. "I don’t start fights on airplanes, so as I was leaving, people were saying, 'You can’t do that. This is ridiculous.'"
Snow said SkyWest has “reached out several times” to Blackwood but hasn’t connected. But the singer said she hasn’t heard from the airline. She also reiterated that she was kicked off because her child was being loud and not because he was unsafe.
"I want people to feel more compassionate toward situations like this. It really was not a big deal at all. It was seven minutes of loud crying and then my baby was sleeping," she said. "Nobody on the flight was upset. None of the other passengers were giving me the stink eye or anything like that. It was just one of those days. I got on a flight with a couple of flight attendants having a really bad day."
Blackwood's band Walk Off the Earth is scheduled to perform on TODAY on June 16.
Follow TODAY.com writer Eun Kyung Kim on Twitter.