Society

Delta Apologizes to Partially Paralyzed Baraka Kanaan, Who Was Forced To Crawl Off Two Planes, Doesn’t Increase Compensation

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Delta Airlines admits to forcing Baraka Kanaan to crawl off two planes but refuses to increase its offer of compensation, which it called a “gesture of goodwill,” according to a letter allegedly sent by the airline.

In the letter, Delta acknowledges having twice failed in their promise to meet Kanaan’s wheelchair accommodations at a Massachusetts-area airport in July despite previously assuring its delivery ahead of travel.

"Truly, I apologize for any distress or discomfort caused when it was necessary to board/disembark in Nantucket by crawling up and down the plane's stairs," the letter seen written by Delta Agent Megan Buchanan and obtained by the Daily News reads. "As you mentioned to our phone agent, there was no lift available in Nantucket to get on or off the aircraft, and the stairs were also too narrow to have someone assist with carrying you up the stairs. After learning that your only option was to crawl up the stairs in order to make it to your speaking engagement on time, I certainly understand why you wanted to bring this matter to our attention."

The letter's authenticity was not immediately confirmed by Delta to the Daily News. Delta has previously refused comment based on the incident's pending litigation.

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In late July of 2012, Kanaan, a former college professor who suffers from partial paralysis of his legs stemming from a car accident, was scheduled to take a series of Delta flights from Maui, Hawaii, to Nantucket, Mass., for a conference.

His lawsuit states that several weeks before the flight, Kanaan spoke to a Delta customer service representative about needing a lift to get on the plane and an aisle chair to get to his seat. The representative assured him that he would be accommodated, according to the complaint.

Kanaan’s scheduled flight was canceled because of weather conditions and he was booked on another flight the next day. When he arrived in Nantucket, a flight attendant told him the airline did not have an aisle chair or a lift to get him off the plane to retrieve his wheelchair.

When Kanaan asked about his options, the flight attendant said, "I don't know, but we can't get you off the plane," the suit states.

Even though a lift was visible at an adjacent gate, Kanaan was forced to crawl out of the plane and across the tarmac without any assistance from the crew and with many people watching, according to the lawsuit.

Kanaan had to repeat the same procedure on his return trip, as the equipment was still unavailable. However, this time the airline offered to place cardboard beneath him "so that his clothes wouldn't get dirty," according to the complaint.

According to the Daily News, Kanaan has been offered a $100 voucher and 40,000 SkyMiles.

Sources: New York Daily News, Houston Chronicle