SkyWest flight crew refuse ‘seat change’, force all passengers to deplane

Published on : Wednesday, August 21, 2019

SkyWest and Delta Airlines came under fire after a passenger said a flight crew refused to accommodate a seat change for his brother on the spectrum and chose instead to force the entire plane to wait three hours for a new crew before taking off.


Ayo Isola shared a post on Facebook Sunday describing the experience he and his family had on the final leg of their journey while returning from Europe. Isola said he, his mother, sister and brother, who is on the spectrum and nonverbal, were assigned separate seats on a Delta Airlines connecting flight operated by SkyWest Airlines from Detroit to Houston.


According to Isola’s Facebook post, however, the onboard crew took issue with a simple seat change to accommodate the needs of his autistic brother.


“For [my brother’s] safety and the safety of those around him, it is important that he sit with a family member on flights,” Isola wrote, adding:


We boarded the plane and easily found a nice woman sitting one row away who was willing to switch seats. Problem solved. The flight attendant became upset and demanded my brother move back to his original seat. We explained to her that he has special needs and that this small accommodation would be necessary, however she continued to raise hell about passengers switching seats.


After delaying the flight 20 minutes, Isola said the flight attendant contacted a supervisor who saw no issue with the seat change for Isola’s family. He said the supervisor “explains to the flight attendant that this happens often on flights.” Still, Isola said the flight attendant wasn’t satisfied and she delayed the plane’s departure again by talking with the pilot, saying Isola’s brother was a “safety hazard.”


Instead of supporting Isola’s family, as many passengers on board were doing, Isola said the pilot forced all 75 passengers to deplane. When airport security at the gate told the pilot and flight crew there was no safety risk and to continue the flight, they refused, Isola said, and left the terminal. Passengers waited an additional three hours until SkyWest brought in a new crew to complete the flight.


Isola demanded an answer and action from Delta in his Facebook post and said he is filing a formal complaint with the airline. According to media reports, the crew and pilots on Isola’s flight are grounded while the airline conducts an investigation.


“Delta apologizes to customers on flight 3596, operated by Delta Connection partner SkyWest, for any inconvenience following an onboard event,” a Delta statement said. “We are currently reviewing the details have reached out to better understand what happened.”


“We are investigating reports regarding SkyWest flight 3596, operating as Delta Connection from Detroit to Houston, Texas, which experienced a delay in boarding as a result of an issue regarding customer seat assignments,” a separate SkyWest statement read. “We are committed to providing exceptional onboard service to all our customers and are working with our partner Delta to reach out to the customers.”

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