Family of cancer-stricken toddler denied access to Spirit flight at FLL

FORT LAUDERDALE-HOLLYWOOD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, FLA. (WSVN) - A South Florida mother is speaking out after, she said, Spirit Airlines staffers denied her family access to their flight in order to make a medical appointment for their sick child.

Under normal circumstances, it wouldn’t have been a big deal for the Tallman family to wait for a later flight, but they were trying to make an important follow-up appointment in California for their 3-year-old boy, Escher, who is battling a rare cancer.

But when the Tallmans, who live in Delray Beach, arrived at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to board their Spirit Airlines flight to Los Angeles on Monday, they were turned away at the gate.

“They wouldn’t let us in,” said the child’s mother, Talia Tallman.

Spirit staff told the family they couldn’t get on their flight after arriving five minutes late to the departure gate.

Escher’s parents had noticed a lump on his neck last year that then grew into a tumor. He was later diagnosed with a soft tissue cancer called spindle cell rhabdomyosarcoma.

Due to the rarity of the treatment, the family went to UCLA Health for medical help. The child underwent three surgeries to remove the tumor.

At FLL, the family was left scrambling to make their flight on time after learning the gate had been changed.

They raced to get there — only to find the door closed. Gate agents told them there was nothing they could do.

“They can’t help us at all,” said Talia.

Worst of all, Escher’s pain medication was already on that flight.

“It was really the way that we were treated by the employees that really felt so wrong to me,” said Talia. “They were just not interested at all in helping us, or showing us even a little bit of compassion.”

After their ordeal, Talia posted a video on Facebook describing her dissatisfied experience. She acknowledged that they were late for the flight, but wished Spirit employees had been more considerate about her particular case.

Spirit Airlines released a statement that reads, “While we are sorry for the inconvenience to this guest and her family, our records show they were not present at the gate when the flight closed. Our team made every effort to hold the flight and did so for more than 10 minutes. Ultimately, the flight had to take off to ensure a timely arrival for our other guests waiting on board.”

Tallman said she was later able to speak to a Spirit agent who agreed to transfer their flight to another day. Doctors in Los Angeles were able to reschedule Escher’s appointment.

However, the family couldn’t replace the pain medication that left with their flight.

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