What do you do when your baby has to go to the bathroom on an airplane? That’s what diapers are for. Unfortunately, Dr. Farah Khan found out the hard way that throwing away a dirty diaper on an airplane can get you into trouble. She says she was later harassed and told she had been put on the “no fly list” for leaving a biohazard on an airplane, but it’s too soon to say whether she did anything wrong.
A Messy Plane Ride
Last Friday, Khan, a physician and assistant professor at the University of Washington, was traveling from Kalispell, Montana, to Houston, TX on a Mesa Airlines flight with her husband and 1-year-old daughter. Midway through the flight, the baby’s diaper needed to be changed.
Khan says she took her infant daughter to the diaper changing station near the back of the plane. She then put the soiled diaper in a scented, plastic bag in the airplane bathroom trash. She was headed back to her seat when she says she was “accosted” by a male flight attendant.
“When I walked back to the front holding my diaper wipes container and, like, the pad that we used to change my daughter’s diaper on, the flight attendant accosted me and said: ‘Did you just dispose of a diaper back there? That’s a biohazard,'” Khan said.
Before she could even explain herself, Khan says the flight attendant started making a scene and told her to retrieve the dirty diaper. She had to dig through the trash until she found it.
She then asked another flight attendant if they had an extra garbage bag so she could throw it away after the flight, but that person told her that putting the diaper in the bathroom trash was the right thing to do. When she confronted the first flight attendant about the policy, she says he screamed at her and told her he didn’t want to deal with her anymore.
Khan says she felt “humiliated” and “belittled” by the end of the flight. When she landed, she filled out a customer service report at the company’s help desk.
Later that day, she received a phone call from a 1-800 number but quickly realized she was speaking with the disgruntled flight attendant from earlier that day.
“I recognized the voice. He said, ‘Due to a biohazard incident on the plane today, we’ve placed you on the no-fly list.’ This made me very angry, because I suffered the humiliating experience…they are placing me on a no-fly list?” Khan recalled. “I also didn’t dispose of the diaper on the plane, even if it was considered a biohazard. I walked it off the plane and threw it away myself outside the flight.”
Khan claims the flight attendant also said, “You people bring your families everywhere. You should stop flying and just drive. I can hear your obnoxious baby in the background right now. Don’t you know that some people just want a peaceful flight and don’t want to listen to your effing children?”
Claiming Racist Abuse
Khan, who is South Asian, Muslim, and American, says she felt targeted after the flight attendant referred to her as “you people.”
As for the no-fly list, Khan says she believes she can still fly, and that the attendant was just trying to scare her. She flew back to Houston on Monday.
Khan says she has also been in touch with Mesa Airlines about the flight attendant in question.
“I’m legitimately worried about this person,” Khan said. “Over a diaper[.] If he’s able to call me and say those things, what else could he be capable of?”
Be sure to check with the airline attendant before you throw away that dirty diaper.