COURTESY KITV NEWS4
Kalani High School sophomore Rachel Collier was yanked off an airplane Tuesday due to a coughing fit.
Teen pulled off plane is ready to fly again
The Kalani student hopes not to cough on Continental this time
Rachel Collier arrived home yesterday from spring break one day late after being kicked off her first flight in Newark, N.J., Tuesday, when she woke up from a coughing fit.
The 16-year-old Kalani High School sophomore caught a cold during a school trip to Washington, D.C., and New York. She fell asleep while her plane was getting ready to take off and woke up coughing and gasping for breath.
"Everyone was looking at me," Collier said yesterday. "I couldn't talk because I lost my voice coughing so much. I was panicking."
The flight attendants gave her water. A passenger nearby was a doctor and said she would be OK if she took some medicine. Eventually the coughing subsided, she said.
But the captain of the Continental Airlines jet returned to the gate and dropped Collier and one of her teachers off.
"I felt it was really extreme for a coughing fit," said her mother, Stephanie Collier. "We've all had coughing fits."
Collier's experience -- getting detained or quarantined due to health concerns on airplanes -- has been repeated elsewhere as airline personnel become more cautious, said NBC and "Today Show" travel editor Peter Greenberg, who closely follows the industry.
On Monday, passengers on board a flight from Hong Kong were detained at Newark Liberty International Airport because several of them had flulike symptoms.
"In situations like (Collier's), I feel like it's the benefit for all concerned to be cautious," Greenberg said.
He said it is better that the captain had her checked before the plane took off rather than diverting the flight midair.
A spokeswoman for Continental Airlines declined to comment, but a company news release said 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."
The release also noted that the flight is more than 10 hours long, a large portion of which is over the ocean.
At first Collier and her teacher, Maile Kawamura, had to fend for themselves. They hopped on a bus to Manhattan and wandered around for two hours, looking for a hotel room, and bought clothes and toiletries since they only had their carry-ons.
Continental Airlines agreed to reimburse their expenses, Stephanie Collier said.
Despite Tuesday's incident, she still plans on taking another flight next week to Egypt with her best friend to attend a wedding.
"I am a little scared since I'm traveling Continental again and I'm not traveling with any adults," she said. "I'm hoping I'll get better by then."