Air travel can be incredibly stressful. Planes are loud, crowded, and every little delay can make the travel atmosphere tense. When you travel, you just sort of expect that people won't always be on their best behavior. But a group of passengers took it too far when they cheered as a little boy and his family disembark a plane due to an allergic reaction he was having.
Seven-year-old Giovanni was getting ready to fly, but he wasn't exactly on vacation. The little boy was visiting Bellingham, Washington, with his parents, Christina Fabian and George Alvarado, to visit extended family. It was an especially important trip for Alvarado, who has terminal throat cancer and wanted to make the most of what time he has left. Even if the trip went well, that's not necessarily the happiest travel occasion, and the flight home was already pretty likely to be bittersweet.
Then it got ugly.
Giovanni, who is allergic to dander, started to have an anaphalactic reaction when the plane was getting ready to take off, something that ultimately resulted in a delay. Alvarado explained to KCENTV that "he began to get very itchy, and he was scratching all over. He started to get hives, so we informed the flight attendant, who informed us that there's dogs on every flight and just smirked, which minimized his experience for me."
That sounds unpleasant. People aren't always very understanding about allergies; some even mock them as attention-seeking behavior if not completely made up. Still, the family wasn't about to make a big issue about it. Parents of kids with allergies probably have a thick skin for jerks just out of necessity.
The family wasn't even particularly shocked to hear they'd have to deboard, and Alvarado said they ultimately understood why they were asked to leave. It could have just ended there. The family wasn't asking for accommodation. The painful flight delay comes to an end, the family catches a different flight, and everyone's a little bit cranky, but really, no worse for the wear.
Instead, as the family began gathering their things and were escorted off the plane, people began to clap and cheer. Alvarado was obviously dismayed, saying, "As a dad, I was just hopeless right there. I just looked at the people clapping. I was just shaking my head. I was like, 'Man, let's get out of here.'"
Giovanni is mostly just sad that what could be one of the last trips he gets to take with his dad ended on such a sour note. "I am sad that this has to be a memory with my dad," he said.
Of course, how were the other passengers to know that when they were clapping for Giovanni's departure that they were kicking someone when they were already down? They couldn't have, but that isn't really the point. Supposing that they weren't even aware that Giovanni was having an allergic reaction, it's still a really ugly story.
If they did know and cheered anyway, then it gets a little nastier. Dander allergies are pretty common, but most of the time they cause discomfort and little else. Of course, "discomfort" can feel like an understatement when you want to scratch your skin off and your eyes are puffing closed. But that's not what we're talking about here. Alvarado said his son had already begun to break out in hives. Hives, or urticaria, are one of the more severe symptoms of dander allergies, and Giovanni's were coming on fast.
The problem isn't just that allergy-induced urticaria is itchy as all get-out and can sting painfully. The hives can also develop in the throat and airway, meaning that if Giovanni's reaction got to that level while the flight was en route, all those passengers would have had an entirely different experience altogether — one that would have made a small delay look like the nonissue it actually is.
People have allergies. It's the fifth most common chronic disease in the country, so by now you would think people would stop imagining that every kid who can't eat a peanut or sit on a plane with dog dander is only faking it to inconvenience them.
It's fine to have a little sarcastic celebration when a delayed flight finally takes off. Maybe the runway is finally clear or the weather becomes friendlier or the fuel truck finally shows up. In those cases, by all means, let's clap away.
But when it's clear that a person is the cause of the delay, maybe at least wait until they're out of earshot, especially if they're a kid and not, for instance, an inebriated racist who insists he won't wear pants. Having an allergy sucks. Having an allergic reaction while traveling with your dying dad sucks harder. Understanding that people are really happy to see you go is the big, fat cherry on a huge suck sundae.
Next time you're travelling, remember that every hiccup and delay is not part of some greater conspiracy to make your day as terrible as possible. Other people also exist besides yourself. And if you see a little kid get bounced off a plane and are considering an outward sign of jubilation to let off steam, stop.
You never know what someone else is going through.
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