The Sky is Falling? No, That’s a Piece of Airplane Landing on a Kid’s Head.

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There are a number of risks and concerns when flying on a long-haul flight with a toddler, but most of them relate to the little one being over-tired, bored, squirmy, crying, or experiencing a diaper disaster. Rarely does ‘a piece of the airplane’ falling on your toddler’s head make it very high on the list of concerns. However, that seems to be exactly what happened yesterday for a one-year-old flying in seat 35L on an American Airlines 777 from Hong Kong to Dallas.

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According to the mom of this little one, upon landing in Dallas, “an entire ceiling panel, including a tank full of oxygen, fell on my one-year-old sons head, who was sitting on my lap in seat 35L. We were directed to wait for a gate agent to document the incident but no one met us at the gate. We stood there waiting for an agent and our stroller until the captain himself walked off the flight and apologized to us. After leaving the gate area, we went to the next customer service area to try to report the incident and were given the run around for 1.5 hours and have made no progress. While the apologies were appreciated, documentation of the incident would have been preferred as a piece of the plane fell directly on my child’s head and that is not ok. Fly American Airlines with extreme caution.

I’ve reached out to the mom of this little one and haven’t heard back yet. From her Facebook posts, it seems her one-year-old, who was sitting on her lap, is doing okay despite this unit landing on his head. Thank goodness the unit did not detach completely, as I imagine that could have resulted in a far more serious outcome.

Obviously, no one wants a piece of the airplane falling onto anyone, much less a child, but you would think there would be a prompt response and documentation once an incident like this happened onboard. I’m also somewhat surprised that medical personnel was not involved to meet the family at the gate if the child was hit in the head, even if just to err on the side of caution – via the update below American says they did offer to have medical personnel meet the aircraft.

Update: American’s statement on the event is that their “primary concern is for the Zanone family and their young child. Our customer relations team is in the process of reaching out to Mrs. Zanone to offer additional support and obtain details of what transpired at Dallas/Fort Worth yesterday. Customers trust us to take care of them and we take that responsibility seriously. Our flight attendants offered to request medical personnel meet the aircraft upon arrival at the gate, but that request was declined by Mrs. Zanone.” They added that the aircraft was inspected, repaired by the DFW Tech Ops team, and back in service last night.

If anything like this were to happen to your child on a flight in the future, and you are at all concerned that they could have some injuries, I would highly recommend insisting on and accepting medical attention. I know that pending connecting flights, customs issues, and more can complicate these sort of decisions, but always err on the side of caution.

Have you ever seen anything like this happen on one of your flights?

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  1. Something similar happened to me! I was flying to Chicago on an AA ERJ140, and when he touched down on the runway – a little harder than normal, given it was a dry runway – the overhead reading light fixture fell off and hit my head. It was more surprising than it was hurtful. The flight attendant came by and told me she saw it fall and hit my head. She didn’t apologize, but did ask if I was ok. It didn’t bother me, and I hate flying in the ERJ140/145 anyway, so I didn’t ask to file a complaint or anything. I tend to stay loyal with AA, and I’ve had plenty of less-than optimal experiences, more so due to the planes than the crew.

  2. While having something heavy hit you on the head completely sucks for the child and family, the thing that bugs me the most in this story actually is that they hung around for 1.5 hours even after declining medical attention. Makes it seem like everything was ok with the child, but they wanted some sort of freebie or just documentation so they can sue down the road. Sometimes it’s better to just move on with life than to turn it into a bunch of drama.

    • That part is confusing. I’ve declined medical treatment before for myself in a very different situation in part because of fear of a huge bill later, so I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but that part is confusing.

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