In 2012, a partially paralyzed airline passenger was forced to crawl on and off his flights when traveling on Delta Air Lines between his home in Hawaii and Nantucket, Massachusetts.
The rights of disabled passengers are protected by the Airline Carrier Access Act (ACAA). The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Hawaii earlier this year claims Delta is guilty of negligence and non-compliance with ACAA.
The man claims he was denied use of a wheelchair or other assistance, and instead had to crawl across the tarmac, up and down the plane’s stairs, and down the aisle to his seat. On one of the flights, he was offered a piece of cardboard upon which to crawl so he would not get his clothes dirty. A piece of cardboard!?!?
This humiliating experience prompted the passenger to call Delta to complain. Delta offered him 25,000 frequent flier miles to make up for the company’s behavior. When he pressed for more action, they actually cut the offer in half.
After a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration got him nowhere, he filed the lawsuit against Delta.
Not surprisingly, Delta settled the suit. The terms are confidential.
The rules pertaining to airline travel for disabled passengers could not be more clear. Airline carriers are prohibited from discriminating against a passenger based upon the passenger’s disability.
Carriers are REQUIRED to offer certain provisions to disabled travelers. For example, for small aircraft, airlines must provide “boarding assistance to individuals with disabilities using mechanical lifts, ramps, or other suitable devices that do not require employees to lift or carry passengers up stairs.” Carriers are also required to provide adequate training for their employees on treatment of disabled passengers. Clearly the Delta employees who refused to assist the traveler did not follow proper guidelines.
The way this passenger was treated certainly amounts to discrimination and violation of the law.
He did the right thing to sue the airline, and the airline was wise to settle the suit.
If you or someone you know is disabled and has been the victim of an additional physical injury caused by an airline’s policies or employees and there are questions as to what laws apply, email or call Abrams Landau, Ltd. at once (703-796-9555).