A Hawaii man who relies on a wheelchair says that Delta Air Lines left him no choice but to crawl on and off its airplanes more than once while traveling cross-country, according to a federal lawsuit.
Baraka Kanaan, who is unable to walk as a result of partial paralysis in his legs, claims that he “was forced to crawl across an airport tarmac, up and down the stairs of an airplane, down the aisle of the aircraft and out of and into his seat” on two different occasions while traveling between Hawaii and Massachusetts in July 2012.
In the suit filed last week in U.S. District Court in Hawaii, Kanaan alleges that Delta violated the Air Carrier Access Act, which requires that airlines and airports “provide boarding assistance to individuals with disabilities by using ramps, mechanical lifts or other suitable devices where level-entry boarding by loading bridge or mobile lounge is not available.” The rule applies to any aircraft that can seat 31 or more passengers.
A former college professor who now heads a nonprofit, Kanaan said he contacted Delta weeks before his scheduled flights to arrange for an aisle chair to bring him to and from his seat and to request a lift in order to access the airplane. He was assured by a company representative that accommodations would be provided, the complaint indicates.
Nonetheless, when Kanaan arrived in Massachusetts, no accommodations were made available and he “crawled hand over hand” off the plane and across the tarmac “in his nicest suit” to reach his wheelchair, according to the lawsuit.
Despite filing a complaint with Delta, Kanaan alleges that conditions were similar for his return trip two days later.
Kanaan’s lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages.
Delta officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the matter.