A quadriplegic man was humiliatingly escorted off a flight by police after the pilot refused to fly with him on board, it has been claimed.
John Morris and his family had just boarded a Frontier Airlines flight in Dallas on Sunday to return home to Fort Collins when he was forced off the plane.
The 24-year-old Colorado State University student said issue was taken to him using an airline belt extension to secure his chest and legs to the seat, with the pilot deeming the standard practice unsafe.
Humiliating: John Morris was escorted off the plane by three police officers
Two days earlier, Mr Morris had no problems flying to Dallas to attend a family wedding, according to his mother, Kathleen.
But on Sunday afternoon a farcical series of events led to the innocent passenger, who has used a wheelchair since being paralysed in a snowboard accident five years ago, being escorted off the plane by police.
‘When a flight attendant saw John strapped in, they said they would have to clear it with the captain,’ Mrs Morris told ABC7.
‘But this time, the pilot refused to take off. So, I said that we wouldn’t get off the plane until they figured it out.’
After hearing the commotion, fellow passengers offered to help but the airline insisted it couldn’t use the straps for medical purposes.
Denny Cannon, who was also on the flight, said: ‘Me and other passengers said: “Well, sure, use our belts and we’ll somehow restrain him and then you won’t be using Frontier products.”‘
Mobile: John does not let his paralysis stop him from living life to the full
Eventually airport police were called and three officers boarded the plane.
Despite reluctance from the officers, the pilot said: ‘He cannot fly. I want him off this plane,’ according to Mrs Morris.
‘It was humiliating,’ she said. ‘The officers kept apologising to me and to John and kept saying: “This is wrong”.’
John said he felt humiliated by the experience.
‘I felt horrible,’ he said. ‘I just felt like I didn’t belong. I haven’t felt that bad since the accident.’
Mrs Morris, who is now planning legal action, added: ‘It really broke my heart, because I know what John goes through on a day to day basis, not being able to do things that he certainly would like to, just wanting the opportunity to travel.’
Apology: Frontier Airlines put the Morris family on the next flight home
Another passenger who witnessed the incident said: ‘It was very demoralising and dehumanising.
‘It should have been dealt with at the gate, not after he was already boarded.’
Steve Cowell, an aviation safety consultant, told ABC7 the pilot should have called airline managers for advice before making such a brash decision.
‘It was completely inappropriate of this captain to escalate … the situation to the level that he did by calling the police,’ he said. ‘It really tells me that this captain did not know how to utilise all the resources available to him.’
Frontier spokesman Peter Kowalchuk told KMGH-TV the pilot was concerned for Morris’s safety and uncertain whether the seat-belt extension could be used to restrain his legs and torso.
After apologising for the mix up, the airline eventually arranged for Morris and his family to take the next flight, with the pilot on that plane having no issues with transporting him.