Joel Trent who describes himself on Facebook as a Reverend and says he studied criminal justice, says that American Airlines failed to accommodate his disability — and he plans to sue.
Only his disability is an addiction to nicotine and his complaint is that he was unable to smoke while waiting for a flight from St. Thomas to Miami.
The aircraft arrived late in St. Thomas and this meant he was in the airport longer than expected. And he was told he couldn’t step outside without being escorted by an American Airlines employee, something they were unwilling to do.
Many travelers do not realize that you go through customs when departing US territories (including the Virgin Islands) for the mainland. There is a duty free allowance that’s double ($1600) what’s allowed entering from a foreign country. However duties do apply, and there are checks.
The man’s issue though isn’t with the airport (for not providing a smoking lounge) or with US customs legislation or even with the 1916 treaty with Denmark which ceded St. Thomas (along with St. Croix and St. John) to the U.S. His problem is with American Airlines.
And his criminal justice training leads him to believe that — since you clear customs departing the US Virgin Islands for the mainland — he was being held against his will inside the airport and this constitutes “unlawful detention.”
It is reasonable to be frustrated by a three hour delay. It is reasonable for a smoker to be itching for a cigarette after going without one for several hours, though that’s something to plan for and there are myriad strategies for managing this. It is not reasonable to ‘lawyer up’ and claim civil rights have been violated when an airline employee wasn’t willing to escort a passenger out of the post-customs inspection section of the terminal.