Delta Passenger Claims Airline Made Him Crawl Across Tarmac Rather Than Offer Assistance

A man from Hawaii who was left without the ability to walk following a car crash in 2000, has sued Delta Air Lines, claiming the carrier gave him no option but to crawl down the aisle of the plane and across a tarmac instead of him providing the assistance he says he’d been promised in advance.

According to the suit, filed recently in Federal Court, the passenger had booked tickets from Maui to Nantucket, Mass., where he would be participating in a conference. He says he called the airline weeks in advance of the trip “to confirm that he is disabled, that he would be traveling with his own wheelchair, and that he required the use of an aisle chair and lift to access the aircraft because he cannot walk.”

The complaint states that the Delta rep “assured him that all was noted in the company’s travel database, and that he would be received and given reasonable accommodation for his disability.”

Unfortunately, his original flight was canceled because of the weather. So he caught a flight the next day, but when it arrived at the airport, the plaintiff alleges he “was informed by one of the flight attendants that the airline did not have the required safety equipment, an ‘aisle chair’ to bring him from his seat to the airplane door; nor did they have a lift to go down the stairs from the aircraft to the tarmac to retrieve his wheelchair.”

Given that he needed this equipment to deplane, he asked the flight attendant how he was expected to exit the aircraft.

He claims that the attendant replied, “I don’t know, but we can’t get you off the plane,” even though he says there was a lift available at the neighboring gate. No effort was made by employees to inquire about the use of the lift, says the suit.

With little other option, and no one apparently willing to help, the passenger says he “was forced to crawl down the aisle of the airplane, down the stairs of the aircraft, and across the tarmac to his wheelchair without any assistance from the crew or the use of any mandated safety equipment… There were a great number of people watching.”

Finally in his wheelchair inside the airport, the passenger says he called Delta, which offered him a $100 voucher for his troubles. The airline also promised that all arrangements would be made so that this didn’t happen again on his return trip.

Alas, after another weather-delayed flight, the passenger says that when it came time to board, “he was again informed that the necessary safety equipment, an aisle chair and a lift, were unavailable, but that they ‘could provide a piece of cardboard to put down so that his clothes wouldn’t get dirty.”

And thus began, according to the lawsuit, a repeat of the earlier incident, with the passenger crawling across the tarmac, up the stairs, down the aisle, and into his seat.

A second complaint to Delta resulted in an offer of 25,000 frequent flier miles.

The passenger alleges that Delta was in violation of the Airline Carrier Access Act which requires planes with at least 31 passengers to “provide boarding assistance to individuals with disabilities by using ramps, mechanical lifts, or other suitable devices where level-entry boarding by loading bridge or mobile lounge is not available.”

The plaintiff seeks compensatory, treble and punitive damages for violations of the Air Carrier Access Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act, negligence, emotional distress and discrimination.

Delta Wasn’t Ready When He Was [Courthouse News]

Delta Passenger Baraka Kanaan Forced To Crawl Down Aisle, Across Tarmac To Wheelchair: Complaint [HuffPo]