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Paralyzed man must crawl, twice, thanks to Delta Airlines

D. Baraka Kanaan sues for “great physical and emotional suffering”

After confirming with a representative from Delta Airlines he would be provided with assistance getting off his flight to Massachusetts, former college professor D. Baraka Kanaan never thought he’d find himself on hands and knees crawling to his wheelchair.

The embarrassing process for Mr. Kanaan consisted of crawling down the aisle, exiting down a flight of stairs and across a tarmac, all the while in the presence of Delta Airlines attendants and several passengers; not one person, he claims, offered assistance.

Mr. Kanaan suffers from partial paralysis in his legs due to a tragic car accident in 2000.

Mr. Kanaan’s initial flight was canceled due to poor weather. He was rescheduled to depart the following day and when he arrived, Mr. Kanaan was told he didn’t have an aisle chair to help him get out of his seat, nor was a lift being provided to assist him in getting off the plane.

Shocked, D. Baraka Kanaan asked flight attendants what he was supposed to do to which, he claims, was told, “I don’t know, but we can’t get you off the plane.” Mr. Kanaan also claims he could see a lift from a distance at an adjacent gate.

The Air Carrier Access Act requires both airlines and airports to “provide boarding assistance to individuals with disabilities by using ramps, mechanical lifts, or other suitable devices where level-entry boarding by loading bridge or mobile lounge is not available” for any airplane with a seating capacity of 31 or more passengers. Whether or not Mr. Kanaan boarded an airplane of this capacity is still unknown.

Mr. Kanaan, 40, states that the incident caused “great physical and emotional suffering.”

Before his return flight home to Hawaii, D. Baraka Kanaan called Delta to report the incident and also to verify that the proper assistance would be available to him this time. But when Mr. Kanaan arrived at the boarding station, he said a flight attendant told him the assistance he requested was yet again unavailable.

Generously enough, the boarding attendant offered to lay down a piece of cardboard on the ground so that his “best suit” would not get dirty. Once again, D. Baraka Kanaan was forced to crawl on the ground. After he returned home, Delta Airlines offered Mr. Kanaan 25,000 “sky miles” and a $100 voucher for the inconvenience. He turned down their sympathetic (more like pathetic) offer, in fear he would face the same humiliating situation again.

This is not the first time Delta Airlines has behaved in such a way. In 2008, a woman with muscular dystrophy was forced to crawl off two separate flights with Delta Airlines. In his complaint to the court, Mr. Kanaan states, “Just a year before, Delta received no less than 5,000 complaints against it and was ordered to pay record breaking fines for its persistent ‘egregious’ treatment of disabled passengers.”

Delta Airlines has refused to comment on either matter. D. Baraka Kanaan is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, to which will be determined at trial.

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