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Disabled Passenger Forced to Crawl Onto Plane After Delta Failed to Provide Wheelchair

A partially paralyzed man sued Delta last year over claims that the airline did not provide him with a wheelchair or assistance on two flights in 2012.

Instead, claimed Baraka Kanaan, he was forced to crawl on and off of flights. In his lawsuit, he said that he had to crawl across the tarmac, up the plane’s stairs and down the aisle to his seat on his flight to Nantucket, Mass.

When the time came to get off the plane, Kanaan recalls that the crew gave him an ultimatum: get off the plane on his own, or go back to Maui.

“And that forced me to crawl, even though I had given them 48 hours’ notice and they knew that I was [unable to walk],” stated Kanaan

The ordeal was repeated when his plane left Nantucket.

Kanaan, who was been unable to walk since a 2000 accident, said the ordeals were “humiliating” and caused him an enormous amount of pain a week before he was scheduled to have spinal fusion surgery. Kanaan is a former California philosophy professor and is currently the head of a nonprofit organization.

In his lawsuit, the Hawaiian man noted that he had called the airline before both flights to help arrange accommodation. On both occasions, the airline assured him that his needs would be met.

Apparently, the airline’s interpretation of helping the customer was to offer him a piece of cardboard, which he could use to crawl across the tarmac without ruining his clothes.

The lawsuit claimed that Delta exhibited noncompliance with the Airline Carrier Access Act in that it didn’t have an aisle chair to help Kanaan get to his seat or a lift to get him up and down the stairs. The airline also failed to provide him any assistance to get from his wheelchair to the plane.

“Purportedly fearful of liability, the flight crew refused to assist Mr. Kanaan, instead serving as spectators themselves,” stated the suit.

When Kanaan later called the airline to complain, Delta representatives offered him 25,000 frequent-flier miles as compensation. When he pressed further, Delta reduced its offer by half.

Kanaan proceeded to file a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration. When that lawsuit had no success, he filed suit in U.S. District Court in Hawaii last June.

Brian Brazier, Kanaan’s lawyer, confirmed that the suit has been settled on confidential terms.


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