As soon as I saw the headline in this story, “American Airlines Called Cops on Double Amputee After Forgetting His Wheelchair, Lawsuit Says” my immediate reaction was: oh, Miami.
And just like the “Germany or Florida” game I guessed correctly.
As the American Airlines plane full of passengers looked on, two law enforcement officers escorted Michael Mennella — a double amputee with no feet — down the aisle and into the airport. They told him he was under arrest for extreme intoxication. But soon enough, the officers realized Mennella was sober. He’d simply hobbled down the aisle to ask for a drink on a flight that departed Miami without the wheelchair the airline had promised him.
American Airlines Regional Jet Gates, Miami
The passenger, who lost his feet in a car accident six years ago, has filed suit against American alleging that they failed to provide him the wheelchair he had requested so “he was forced to struggle down the jet bridge, which caused pain to flare up in his legs.”
During the flight he says he asked for water to go with his medication, but the request was refused. After “asking several times, he walked on his stumps to the back of the plane” to seek help from another flight attendant, whom he says ignored his request. Then he “struggled back to his seat.”
American diverted the flight to Dallas Fort Worth to deal with the man whom flight attendants reported to be “a drunk” and “intoxicated to the point of needing medical attention.”
American Eagle, Miami
After being removed from the aircraft at DFW, officers told Mr. Mennella “that he was being arrested for a felony due to his intoxication,” but then determined he wasn’t intoxicated at all. He flew onward to Las Vegas on a different flight.
In an email exchange with American Airlines customer service, included in the lawsuit, American explained that he was removed for “disruptive and unruly behavior” and that the airline believed the “pilot made the correct decision in this situation, and we apologize if you feel otherwise.”
American Airlines has “declined to comment on the specifics of Mennella’s case.”
Now, it wouldn’t surprise me if the passenger used “lewd language” as American apparently claimed —
after failing to receive assistance boarding or to obtain water from a flight attendant — but it’s unlikely that a passenger without feet was a significant threat to the safety of the aircraft.
I spoke to a reporter yesterday about the declining value of even top tier elite status with US airlines. I’m beginning to think the primary benefit of frequent flyer status isn’t in the published benefits, but a presumption from (some) employees that you’re less likely to be a threat to the aircraft.