Monday, July 29, 2013


Disabled Man Claims Delta Forced Him to Crawl On and Off Plane
Alexis Shaw, ABC News - July 29, 2013

Some random thoughts on this story, which has been bouncing around the various national news outlets for the last several days:

I waited until now to post a link to this story, because previous articles about it were from Fox, the New York Post, The Daily News, and other outlets I prefer not to use as sources. I don't know if their political leanings make much difference for stories like this, but I guess it's similar to my somewhat rational aversion to shopping at Walmart.

I wonder if other kinds of prejudice contributed to the situation? The man seems to be a native Hawiian, and he's kind of a tough-looking dude, to a mild degree … kind of like someone with a take-no-shit attitude, who probably doesn't naturally elicit compassion.

It seems like he did everything the way you're supposed to do it, complete with followup calls to the airline before and after each stage of his trip.

There are probably three layers to Delta's "epic fail". First, they were probably incorrect when they told Kanaan they could accommodate him at Nantucket. If nothing else, the small size of the airport there, and maybe of the plane that serves the island, should have tipped off the helpline to make doubly sure the equipment would be there. Second, there's the logistical failure itself. There's no reason why even a small airport at this point should lack an aisle chair and a lift. If they do, I think there's a fairly sizable airport not far away that could have loaned them the equipment for the day. What's it called? Oh, yeah, Boston! Third, faced with the logistical failure, did the Delta staff on the scene make the best of a bad situation? How did they try? Did they offer to carry Kanaan off the plane and to his wheelchair? Many wheelchair users rightly deem carrying to be undignified and unacceptable, not to mention unsafe, but since lifts can't be conjured out of thin air, he might have preferred it to crawling. I guess I'd like to know how Kanaan would rate the human interactions he had with flight attendants, separate from the outrage of the airline's equipment fail.

I wonder how many random strangers and fellow passengers witnessed the whole spectacle. I hope for Kanaan's sake nobody, but then again, it might be valuable for more people to see first-hand the gritty, human consequences of corporate ineptitude and insensitivity.

Hopefully, these finer points will be fleshed out by the lawsuit. It's one reason why holding lawsuits and lawyers in blanket contempt is so short-sighted. Lawsuits can really help guide future behavior in useful ways. Of course, it might also end with an out of court settlement designed in part to shield Delta from further bad publicity. I hope that doesn't happen.