Airlines are not commonly known for their great customer service these days. Often, passengers feel more like livestock than guests as they wait to board, and then are shuffled onto their flights where they’re stuffed into increasingly smaller spaces as airlines struggle to squeeze every dollar they can out of each flight. That being said, I was still shocked to read about [highlight color=”yellow”]a disabled passenger on a recent Delta flight who 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,” with an audience of a “great number of people”.[/highlight]
Why? Because the airline hadn’t provided the proper safety equipment for the passenger, and didn’t want to risk liability. Apparently, humiliating a human being was the better choice in this situation? Even worse, this not only happened on his departing flight, but on his return flight home as well.
According to court documents, when D. Baraka Kanaan booked his round-trip flight, he was assured by a Delta agent 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 due to weather, so Kanaan had to take a flight out on the following day. Apparently, the company’s travel database did not pass on the memo that there was a disabled passenger being bumped from one flight to another, because Delta was not at all prepared to assist him. He was not informed of this until arriving at the airport for his flight. A flight attendant informed him that not only did they not have the aisle chair to move him between the airplane door and his seat, but they also did not have a lift to go down the stairs from the plane to the tarmac to get him to his wheel chair. When he asked how he’d get to and from his seat, he was allegedly told by a flight attendant “I don’t know, but we can’t get you off the plane”.
Kanaan couldn’t just sit on the plane all day, so he took it upon himself to not only crawl down the aisle, but also down the stairs and across the tarmac to his waiting wheelchair. Not one member of the crew stepped up and offered to assist this passenger. That must be some liability. I’d like to think that in a situation like this, I’d be willing to lose my job in order to help someone else avoid this kind of humiliation.
Upon retrieving his wheelchair, Kanaan called Delta. They offered him a $100 travel voucher and an apology for his troubles with the assurance that he wouldn’t experience the same trouble (and embarrassment) on his return trip.
Guess what? His return trip was delayed, again due to weather, and when he arrived for his flight, the passenger was told yet again that the safety equipment was not available. This time, however, they did offer him a piece of cardboard to scoot on to avoid getting dirty.
You have got to be kidding me.
I kept reading on, hoping that this was some sort of wayward Onion piece that got lost and found its way in the news. Unfortunately, it is not.
This time, Delta really stepped up and offered Kanaan 25,000 frequent flier miles. Maybe that would be acceptable if it were for flights on another airline. Kanaan is now seeking damages from the airline. I have a hard time imagining how Delta will worm their way out of this one, and can only hope that this serves as a lesson to them, and any other airline – [highlight color=”yellow, “]putting fear of liability above common decency and respect will cost you a whole lot more in the long run than anything that could have possibly happened while assisting a passenger to and from their seat.[/highlight]
(hat tip to Ben Wills for the heads up on this story)