Friday, October 15, 2010

US Airways Boots Wheelchair-User

We hear about airline denied boardings all the time in Asia, Africa, Australia and (thanks to easyJet) the UK; but they don't happen all that often in the US. Why? Well quite simply, because we have the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), a piece of civil rights legislation that specifically prohibits such discriminatory behavior. But apparently a US Airways gate agent in West Palm Beach missed the "special needs" day in training; as he recently forced wheelchair-user Johnnie Tuitel to deplane. Why? Because he determined that Mr. Tuitel was "too disabled to fly by himself."

Now bear in mind Mr. Tuitel isn't a newbie to air travel; in fact, as a motivational speaker he's logged almost 500,000 miles in the past few years. Ironically he was on his way to speak at the 2010 National Self Advocacy Conference in Kansas City, when this unfortunate incident occurred.

Everything went fine at check-in, and when the gate agent took Mr. Tuitel to his seat. But things went down hill quickly after the rest of the passengers boarded. That's when the gate agent returned to the plane and informed Mr. Tuitel that he had to get off the plane. Thinking that there was some kind of a family emergency, Mr. Tuitel quickly complied; only to subsequently find out that he was being booted from the flight.

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