D. Baraka Kanaan has filed a lawsuit in federal court against Delta Airlines, claiming that he was told by crew members on two flights that he could only get off of the plane by crawling down the aisle, down the steps and across the tarmac to reach his wheelchair.
On July 26, 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.
The suit 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 rep assured him that he would be accommodated, according to the complaint.
Kanaan’s scheduled flight was canceled due to weather and he was booked on another flight the next day. When he arrived in Nantucket, a flight attendant told him the airline didn’t have an aisle chair or a lift to get him off the plane to retrieve his wheelchair.
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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.
Although 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. In both incidents, Kanaan alleges Delta employees made no effort to try and obtain equipment from other airlines to help him deplane properly.
Kanaan's complaints to the airline resulted in a $100 voucher and an offer of 25,000 SkyMiles, which the suit says he declined, fearing his next Delta flight would leave him, again, on his hands and knees.
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Kanaan is seeking compensatory and punitive damages to be determined at trial, according to the complaint.
On Friday, Delta had not filed its response, according to online records.