Jon Morrow recently wrote a Facebook post that described Southwest Airlines as “discriminating against severely disabled passengers” when they wouldn’t let him travel with a special lift device needed to move him in and out of an airplane seat safely.
Morrow has an extreme medical condition that involves a fused spine, brittle bones and an inability to move from the neck down. He had booked a recent flight with Southwest Airlines and informed the airline of his need for special accommodations.
Morrow owns an Eagle Lift device used in airports across the world like England, Australia, and Canada. In the U.S. the Eagle Lift device isn’t used by airlines, as they see it as an “undue burden,” or at least that’s what Morrow claims Southwest Airlines called it.
The Eagle Lift costs $15,000 and Morrow purchased it as a Christmas gift for himself so that he could travel easier, and even had his caregivers certified on how to use the lift so that he could be transferred safely.
“And then I booked THREE tickets on Southwest and told them I would be bringing the Eagle as well as licensed personnel to use it,” he wrote.
Originally, Southwest said he could bring the device onto the plane, but later they reversed their decision and told Morrow he wouldn’t be able to board with the Eagle Lift. Instead, they told Morrow that all of their employees at every gate are trained to assist with lifting and transferring customers who need it. They offered him a small metal wheelchair and an aisle seat to help with the transition.
This offer didn’t work for Morrow, and neither did the airline’s offer to call in the fire department to transfer him into his seat.
“I also have a letter from my physician stating that it would be EXTREMELY dangerous to transfer me by hand on an airplane. There simply isn’t enough room for everyone to have proper body mechanics,” Morrow explained.
For Morrow, the Eagle Lift makes sense – it’s safe and it’s used in airports across the world. Plus, Southwest doesn’t have to buy one, as Morrow would bring his own.
“Mind you, this is a device that is standard operating procedure for all passengers in wheelchairs outside the US. It’s been used safely on thousands of flights. I’m also providing the Eagle and trained personnel at MY expense,” Morrow pointed out.
Southwest replied to Fox News with the following statement: “In this instance, the Customer was informed that we do not have boarding procedures for the safe use of his personal Eagle Lift device nor do our Employees have training for storage of the device. This final decision was made after reviewing the device’s specifications and the requirements for transporting it and the Customer safely.”
Morrow had to cancel his flight with Southwest Airlines and instead found a seat on a JetBlue flight, who presumably allowed him to use his Eagle Lift device.
“So, here I am, appealing to Facebook. Not only for myself, but for everyone else who needs this device,” Morrow wrote. “People who cannot transfer themselves should not be manhandled by firefighters. They should be able to use a device built and tested for that exact purpose, recognized worldwide for its safety and efficiency.”
“People in wheelchairs should be able to fly. Let’s take this one small step toward making it happen and approve my flight,” he said.
Southwest also told Fox News that they are now “in contact with the manufacturer of this device to learn more about the device’s unique handling and storage requirements.”
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