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Man with Disability Rejects Airline’s Explanation

EXETER -- American Airlines is now telling its side of the story after a man with a disability claims the airline removed him from a flight from Los Angeles to Philadelphia without giving him a reason.

We first talked with that man from Luzerne County a couple weeks ago. Now he calls American's explanation full of holes.

Mark Smith's experience with American Airlines last month got national attention when Smith claimed the airline forced him off his flight. The man from Shavertown has cerebral palsy and travels often as part of his job with Pride Mobility.

Smith has now received an email from American Airlines saying that he chose to get off the plane.

Smith says that is just not true.

"My dignity was checked at the gate with American Airlines," Smith said.

On March 27, after boarding an American Airlines jet at the Los Angeles International Airport, Smith says flight attendants and ground crew workers escorted him off the plane and booked him on a later flight to Philadelphia.

"I don't know why, when I was being removed, why I was not given an explanation," he said.

Late last week, American Airlines sent Smith an email explaining that Smith's power chair would not fit in the plane's cargo hold.

"The aircraft's cargo door opening on this particular aircraft is 33" tall and 48" wide. While our ground staff tried on several occasions to load your wheelchair into the cargo hold they were, unfortunately, unsuccessful."

We measured smith's power chair.

"Wheel to wheel, 24 inches, height 29 inches."

"The dimensions of the cargo hold well exceed the dimensions of my power chair," said Smith.

Smith claims an airline worker told him the power chair was in the plane's cargo bay just after he was taken off the plane. He says he had to wait about a half hour to get his chair back and records show that flight left 35 minutes late.

"American Airlines' reasoning does not add up," Smith said.

But the airline says Smith knew why he left the plane in its email. American writes that Smith had, "the option of traveling on your original flight with your wheelchair following on another flight, or that you could travel with your wheelchair on the next available flight that could accommodate your wheelchair. Our records show you opted to travel with your wheelchair and therefore deplaned with assistance from our ground staff."

"I had hoped that American's response was an honest one," Smith added.

Smith has filed a formal complaint against American Airlines with the U.S. Department of Transportation.

American Airlines would only say it addressed his concerns in last week's email, and that when it re-booked Smith on the later flight to Philadelphia, it upgraded his seat to first class.

11 comments

  • TOMTOM

    Hey WNEP…Just buy him his own private jet or borrow Skycam when he needs it. My God, enough already. It’s worse than that annoying kid. YES. ACTUALLY.

    • wjpeace

      What a bigoted remark. The airline industry is openly hostile to people with a disability–especially those that use a wheelchair.

      • Scarlett

        I am a handicapped traveler and I have had nothing but great experiences with airlines. TSA not so much, but the flight attendants and airline staff are always beyond kind and accommodating, so I don’t know what you’re talking about.

  • free advertising

    Nice shameless plug for the company that Mark works for. So who from WNEP owns stock in it, or has an interest in the business? Is this all I need to do to get air time for my business? Of course, pumping septic tanks is a hard one to blame the airlines for, but hey, it’s time to bash them now so, fair game, right? Pile on!

  • roxx

    American Airlines did this to me recently dropped me face forward out of the aisle chair then broke my brand new power chair and i never got reimbursed

  • Carol Watson

    American Airlines deserves the same public and media criticism that United Airlines is currently receiving (and the same impact to its stock prices). How shameful that they lied about the facts of the size of the cargo opening. Airlines need to be held accountable for their actions.

    • gullible much?

      How did they lie about the size of the opening? People need to stop being so stinking sensitive about every little thing that happens to them. People get bumped from flights all the time. But whoa – I’m disabled, they singled me out. Hey, I’m an Asian doctor, they singled me out. Keep bashing the airlines, put them under a microscope, make their stock prices drop. But don’t complain the next time your flight to Disney or Branson costs $2000.00. Grow some skin.

      • wjpeace

        You fail to acknowledge the airline industry routinely discriminates against wheelchair users. The explanation is utter fiction. Read about the dimensions of the wheelchair and cargo door. The wheelchair fit easily and the airline flat out lied.

      • get it right

        By routinely discriminating, you mean allowing wheelchair bound people boarding first and disembarking first? Yes, I’ve seen that game on every domestic and international flight I’ve been on. How dare they! All this is is sensationalizing. Mr. Smith could have easily accepted and understood what happened and moved on with his life, but instead he chooses to showcase and grandstand and claim ‘oh woe is me and my poor company being discriminated against’. Funny how his type doesn’t want pity, sympathy, or special treatment unless there’s a price tag or spotlight attached to it. All this will do is make for more ridiculous policy that nobody asked for and drive the cost up of flying for everyone.

  • Gorrilla Joe

    Worked for the airlines for 30 years. Never had a problem getting an electric supercharged wheelchair into a cargo bin, even on the CRJ’s. With the electric wheelchairs the chair can be manipulated, the seat can be leaned back to make to decrease the chairs height, headrest can be removed. If the battery isn’t a gel pack battery it’s taken out. The wheelchair can be tilted over and angled to get through the door opening.

    When Mr Smith took the later flight was it the same type A/C or even the same A/C?

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