John Morris was on his way to Fort Collins on Sunday, when Frontier Airlines put a little kink in his travel plans. John, who is a quad, has flown before with Frontier; and since he’s an old hand, he already has his own inflight restraint system figured out. It’s something that some quads have to do, especially if they don’t have much trunk support. Sure, you’re fine in your custom wheelchair, but it’s an entirely different story in an airplane seat.
I’ve seen and heard of all forms of restraints and supports; from pillows and foam rubber rolls to chest straps and even special harnesses. In the end it’s a very personal choice, and you have to find something that works for you. And that’s just what John did. In his case he used an airline seatbelt extension to secure his chest and legs to the seat.
But unfortunately the pilot felt it wasn’t adequate, so he was asked to deplane. Of course Mr. Morris was embarrassed and humiliated. On the plus side though, he was able to take a later Frontier flight.
So what’s the law have to say about this? Well, believe it or not the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) is silent on the issue of torso support. I can say that I’ve known folks who’ve had to ditch their larger, more cumbersome support devices (like long pieces of foam rubber) in order to fly.
The airlines do have restrictions on child restraint devices, like car seats and harnesses. Basically they have to be FAA approved and marked as such. But they don’t have any rules for disabled adults.
So in the end, it was the pilot’s call.
But was there anything that John could have done? What would you do if you were in the same situation?
The bottom line is, if you are ever asked to deplane because of a disability related issue, ask to speak to the Complaints Resolution Official (CRO). All airlines are required to have one on duty during flight operations, either by phone or in person. The CRO is specially trained in access issues and will certainly resolve the issue at hand. It’s hard to say, but since Frontier reversed their initial position and let Mr. Morris board a later flight, it’s possible that a chat with the CRO could have resolved the whole issue.
In any case, I’m glad Mr. Morris eventually got to his destination; but if you find yourself in a similar situation, remember the CRO!