Mark Smith Says He Was Removed From American Airlines Flight Without Explanation
Last Monday, Mark Smith boarded an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Philadelphia. Smith, who has cerebral palsy and writes about mobility for his site WheelchairJunkie.com, has flown hundreds of times before without any problems. But Monday’s flight was not like other flights, Smith claims, stating he was removed from the plane without being given any reason.
“I was sitting there with two women next to me, a fully boarded plane ready to take off and go back to Philadelphia, when out of nowhere a group of people asked the two ladies to get up and move, and very directly told me I have to get off the plane,” Smith told The Mighty. “One minute I’m a business man who happens to have cerebral palsy, and the next I’m being removed from the plane.”
Smith said he left the plane voluntarily, after which he claims he waited half-an-hour on the jetway waiting for his wheelchair. “It was me that went back to the ticket counter and without any question was able to book myself on a flight home,” he added, noting he was able to reschedule his 11:20 a.m. flight for 3:00 p.m.
American Airlines claims Smith was removed from his original flight because his wheelchair did not fit into the cargo hold of the aircraft. A spokesperson told The Mighty:
We have spoken directly to Mr. Smith and have apologized for his recent experience. Mr. Smith was rebooked on a later flight to Philadelphia because his wheelchair didn’t fit into the cargo hold of the aircraft. American does not tolerate discrimination of any kind and we are committed to providing a positive travel experience for all of our customers.
Despite American Airlines’ comment, Smith said he was never told his wheelchair did not fit in the cargo hold and that when he spoke to an American Airlines representative on Thursday, no reason was listed or given for why he was removed from the plane.
On Monday, Smith filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation. “The reality is that discrimination can occur, but that doesn’t mean it ever should,” he said. “To me, what this is about is about making sure that others are aware of treating others with dignity and making sure this never happens to another person.”