Flight Crew Grounded After Allegedly Refusing To Accommodate Man With Autism
A passenger traveling with SkyWest Airlines over the weekend claimed crew members walked off the plane rather than accommodate his brother with autism, forcing all 75 people on board to exit the aircraft and wait three hours for another flight.
Ayomide Isola recalled the incident in a now-viral Facebook post in which he vows to take further action against SkyWest, which is a connection carrier for Delta and several other airlines. He said he was flying from Detroit to Houston at the time with his mother, sister and 21-year-old brother Tayo, who “is essentially nonverbal, making him unable to express himself.
“He suffers from OCD, sensory overload and many other symptoms that can make air travel particularly difficult for him,” he wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday. “For his safety and the safety of those around him, it is important that he sit with a family member on flights.”
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Isola said he and his family arrived at the gate prepared for their travels only to learn that they were all seated separately. When they boarded the flight, already delayed by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection computer outage, a woman was quick to volunteer to switch seats with Tayo for the two-hour trek, but a flight attendant quickly became enraged over the arrangement.
She allegedly demanded that Tayo take his original assigned seat, but Isola refused on his behalf, explaining to her his brother’s condition and needs.
“This small accommodation would be necessary,” they told her, but she would not relent.
Eventually they spoke with a supervisor who seemed confused by the tensions building aboard the aircraft.
“The supervisor was like, ‘This happens all the time,'” Isola told NBC News. “She was confused as to why the flight attendant was making such a big deal.”
After being delayed for nearly an hour, the flight attendant spoke with the pilot and pressed for both Isola’s family and the woman who swapped seats with his brother to be booted from the plane.
She called them all a “safety hazard,” Isola said.
Airport security sided with Isola, telling the pilot there was no safety issue and that the flight should resume — but he refused and the crew exited the aircraft. As a result everyone on board was forced to deplane and wait for a new crew to arrive.
“When the new crew came in everything went smoothly,” Isola said.
Delta in a statement to WXYZ on Monday apologized to those on the flight “for any inconvenience following an on board event.”
“We are currently reviewing the details and have reached out to better understand what happened.”
SkyWest said it was aware of the incident and has partnered with Delta in a bid to resolve the issue.
“We are investigating reports regarding SkyWest flight 3596, operating as a Delta Connection from Detroit to Houston, Texas, which experienced a delay boarding as a result of an issue regarding customer seat assignments,” it reads.
“We are committed to providing exceptional on board service to all of our customers and are working with our partner Delta to reach out to the customers.”
Isola concluded his Facebook post explaining that he shared the story to “highlight the ignorance, bigotry and blatant discrimination that unfortunately exists in people today.”
“It is not right to treat people with special needs as if they are unworthy of your time or effort. Especially when a simple accommodation and a bit of compassion can be the difference between them being successful or unsuccessful in life,” he wrote.
“They are people first, defined by all of their abilities and not condemned by their disabilities. Respect is all I’m asking for here. No one who flies should have to deal with the disrespect that we experienced on that night. It is for that reason that I reported the crew of this flight to their higher-ups and requested that they not be able to fly any more planes with more passengers without serious consequences, if at all.”
The crew has been grounded while the airlines continue to probe the incident.
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