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Airline ‘made paralysed man crawl aisle and tarmac’

July 30, 2013 Aviation, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59A partially paralysed airline passenger was twice forced to crawl in his best suit down the aisle of an aircraft and across the tarmac to reach his wheelchair, according to a newly filed lawsuit.

On the second occasion, the man claims the airline offered him cardboard to crawl on, so as not to soil his suit.

The incidents, if proved, represent a spectacular blunder on the part of cabin crew and a public relations nightmare for the airline. The plaintiff, Baraka Kanaan, head of a non-profit educational organisation and a former professor of philosophy, says both incidents involved Delta Air Lines last year.

Baraka Kanaan

Baraka Kanaan

Kanaan’s lawsuit was filed last week in in US District Court in Honolulu. An outline of the case published in the US by the Huffington Post says Kanaan was involved in a car accident 13 years ago, which left him unable to walk.

Being dependent on a wheelchair, aisle chairs and lifts, he let the airline know months in advance that he would need equipment to cope with the flight from Hawaii to Massachusetts. He says Delta representatives assured him “that he would be received and given reasonable accommodation for his disability”.

In the event, however, Kanaan alleges he found none of the promised equipment. According to the Huffington Post, which says it has seen a copy of the lawsuit, Kanaan states that when he asked cabin crew how he could deal with the situation, a flight attendant told him: “I don’t know, but we can’t get you off the plane”.

Then Kanaan, in his best suit, had to “[crawl] hand over hand through the main cabin and down a narrow flight of stairs and across the tarmac to his wheelchair” with many people watching. He suffered “great physical and emotional suffering”, according to the lawsuit.

While it might seem difficult to top that for indignity and humiliation, it gets worse, according to the document. For Kanaan alleges that on the return flight, the situation was the same. This time, he claims,  Delta employees did at least make an offer. They offered to place cardboard beneath him “so that his clothes wouldn’t get dirty”, the lawsuit states.

When Kanaan complained to the airline, he says Delta offered him a USD 100 voucher and 25,000 SkyMiles. He declined this, his lawsuit says, being reluctant (perhaps understandably) to fly with Delta again.

According to Kanaan’s complaint, the Airline Carrier Access Act and other US federal regulations require airlines to have equipment such as aisle chairs and lifts for disabled passengers.

Written by : Peter Needham

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