A former professor of philosophy at the California State University, Long Beach, and current head of the Lovevolution Foundation and a Maui, Hawaii, resident was forced to crawl in his nicest suit hand over hand through the main cabin floor of the Delta aircraft, down a narrow flight of stairs and across the tarmac to his wheelchair. There were a great number of people watching, but not helping. Flight attendants gave no assistance.
Delta Airlines was served with a legal complaint number CV13-00365KSC filed on July 23, 2013 in the US District court in Hawaii by D. Baraka Kanaan. Mr. Kanaan, who suffers from paraparesis, a partial paralysis of his legs, which renders him unable to walk, was subject to this appallingly outrageous treatment by Delta Airlines agents.
It was alleged Mr. Kanaan suffered intense physical and extreme emotional suffering as a result of the defendant’s action and omissions.
Mr. Kanaan was involved in an accident in 2000 and his condition has deteriorated.
Mr. Kanaan had called Delta Airlines several weeks in advance of his flight and spoke to a customer service representative to confirm that he is disabled, that he would be traveling with his own wheelchair, and that he required the use of an aisle seat and lift to access the aircraft, because he cannot walk.
The Delta representative assured him that all was noted in the company’s computer and his PNR, and that he would be received and given reasonable accommodation for his disability.
The Delta flight that he was scheduled on (DL4245) was cancelled on July 26, 2012 for weather-related conditions. Mr. Kanaan was then rescheduled on a flight on a connecting flight on July 27 from Maui to Nantucket, Massachusetts, USA, on DL 4110.
Upon his arrival at Nantucket Airport, Mr. Kanaan was informed by one of the flight attendants that the airline did not have the required safety equipment 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.
The Airline Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and applicable federal regulations require airlines to have such equipment available in order to accommodate disabled passengers such as Mr. Kaanan.
Delta did not.
When Mr. Kanaan asked what his options were, the flight attended said, they could not get him off the plane.
Despite a clearly visible lift at an adjacent gate, Mr. Kanaan 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.
During this entire incident, no efforts were made by Delta Airlines to secure the lift of an aisle chair from Jet Blue or any other airline operating in the airport. Purportedly fearful of liability, the flight crew refused to assist Mr. Kanaan, instead serving as spectators themselves.
Once Mr. Kanaan was in his wheelchair and made it to the airport terminal without assistance, he filed a complaint and spoke with Dough Dole of Delta’s Salt Lake City disability desk. He was given a reference number and was offered a US$100 voucher.
During this call Mr. Kanaan specifically and adamantly informed Mr. Dole that he would be flying out from Nantucket to return to Maui in 2 days and that he would need the proper equipment for his return trip. Mr. Dole assured Mr. Kanaan that the proper equipment was available at Nantucket airport and would be made available to Mr. Kanaan for his return trip.
Two days later Mr. Kanaan’s return flight, DL4245, was again delayed. When boarding finally began, Mr. Kanaan was again informed that the necessary 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.
Again, Mr. Kanaan was forced to crawl across the tarmac, up the stairs of the Delta aircraft, down the aisle, and hoist himself into his seat on the aircraft, which was physically painful. Again many passengers watched this transpire, causing grave embarrassment and a feeling of dehumanization.
It appears such complaints are nothing new to Delta. Just a year before, Delta received no less than 5,000 complaints against it and was ordered to pay record-breaking fines for this egregious mistreatment of disabled passengers.
Some of the complaints included:
– Delta left a blind woman alone in a wheelchair on a moving walkway.
– Delta failed to bring an 81-year-old man to a hotel after canceling his flight. The man had to sleep in a wheelchair.
– An elderly couple in wheelchairs missed an international flight because Delta failed to board them.
– A woman who needs a ventilator to breathe was removed from a Delta flight, which was a return flight, because the Delta flight crew inexplicably determined that her ventilator and medical equipment could not be brought to the plane.
This time Delta offered Mr. Kanaan 25,000 Skymiles as a compensation. Mr. Kanaan found this offer insulting and refused to accept it.
Mr. Kanaan was then connected with Delta’s corporate headquarters. There, Mr. Kanaan was told he was speaking to the highest person available, a women named Rachel, who provided Mr. Kanaan with a corporate case number. To literally add insult to injury, Rachel offered an even smaller amount of Skymiles. When Mr. Kanaan declined, Rachel terminated the phone call, hanging up on him, saying there was nothing more Delta could or would do.
ETN today called the same number (404-773-0305) and finally was connected to a recording saying due to many complaints, Delta was unable to answer the call and to try again later.