Was Passenger from Luzerne County Taken off Flight Due to Disability?

EXETER -- A business executive in Luzerne County claims he was removed from an American Airlines flight because of his disability.

He's speaking out, claiming the experience humiliated him in front of other passengers.

Mark Smith is Pride Mobility's consumer research manager. He also has cerebral palsy.

Just after he boarded a flight from Los Angeles to Philadelphia Monday night, he claims he was ordered off the flight and was never told why.

"How is it in 2017, that an airline can eject somebody from a flight, solely based on disability?" Smith asked.

Smith estimates he's flown dozens of times on business for Pride Mobility, a motorized wheelchair company in Exeter, without problems.

This weekend he was at a conference for those with disabilities in Los Angeles and was set to fly to Philadelphia Monday night.

Because of his disability, he says he was helped to his window seat while his wheelchair was stowed with passenger luggage.

But after other passengers boarded, Smith says a group of flight attendants and ground crew members told the two women sitting next to him to move.

"It was at that point, I realized something was happening to me," Smith said.

Smith says the group told him he was being removed from the plane.

"Is it regarding my wheelchair?" Smith asked. "Specifically, the answer was no. The pilot per manifest was requesting, or requiring I be taken off the flight."

Smith says one flight attendant tried to stop his removal but backed off when he says she was threatened with her job.

He says he was strapped to a seat with wheels taken off the plane, and given back his wheelchair before the flight left without him.

Smith claims American Airlines never told him why was taken off the flight but American booked him a later flight Monday night.

"What I would like to hear from American Airlines is simply an acknowledgment, simply the recognition of me as a person," he said.

American Airlines responded to Newswatch 16 via email:

"We apologize to Mr. Smith for his recent experience and have reached out to him to gather additional information. American does not tolerate discrimination of any kind and we are committed to providing a positive travel experience for all of our customers. Mr. Smith was re-accommodated on the next flight to Philadelphia."

Smith filed a formal complaint with the airline Thursday morning. He says he would like an apology, but hopes this incident prompts American Airlines to work harder to deal with passengers with disabilities and honor their rights.

8 comments

  • Chris

    Sometimes it could be about the disability or the perception of it correct or not related to safety concerns. According to info I found about the Air Carrier Access Act
    Traveling with an attendant is generally not required. Airlines may require a person with a disability to travel with an attendant (someone to help the person during the flight in case of an emergency) only if the airline staff determines the person:
    Is unable to comprehend or respond appropriately to safety instructions;
    Has a mobility impairment so severe that the person is unable to assist in his or her own evacuation from the aircraft; or
    Has both severe hearing and severe vision impairments which prevent him or her from receiving instructions from in-flight personnel.
    If the airline determines that you need an attendant and you are traveling alone, there are other options an airline can try before denying you travel. The airline may appoint an off-duty staff member who is otherwise traveling on the flight or you may ask another passenger to volunteer to assist you in case of an emergency.
    However, the airline is not required to provide you with an attendant, even if they determine one is necessary for you to fly.

  • Lee

    There is more to this story, not kicked off because of disability, I understand it was due to a problem with your wheelchair, battery leaking possibly? And you were accommodated on the next flight in first class. Please let’s get all the facts before you ream the pilot or airline.

  • Pilot Suffers From Dementia

    Somebody should kick that pilot in the shins if that’s how he treated this passenger.

  • Really?

    I work as a disability rights advocate. I smell a BS story. I believe he was asked to leave the plane. Was it because of his disability? Why? Something doesn’t make sense.

    • just curious

      You believe he was asked to leave the plane? why do you believe thar? and what would prompt the airline to “ask”? I think the BS is in your comment

      • Really?

        I think you misunderstood. I think the passenger’s story is BS. It’s hard to fake getting off the place, there was probably a few dozen witnesses at least. But him claiming it was because of his disability is HIGHLY questionable to me. Did he make a scene? Who knows. people tend to leave out the details that make them look bad.

    • Sming

      It’s a vital to understand the type of person that Mark is. I have followed him and his work for years and find it difficult to believe that he would exaggerate the details.

    • Truth

      Unfortunately he is lying. His power chair physically would not fit through the cargo door opening. The Captain took a 40 minute delay working with the ramp crew trying to find some way to make it fit. Apparently he was originally booked on a later flight which was a bigger airplane. He was completely informed of the situation and knew exactly why he was removed, you can’t send him on a flight without his chair. I’m pretty pissed about his blog post and the articles that followed, he’s not making any friends for the disabled community with this kind of drama.

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