Airline apologizes after quadriplegic forced off flight

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 22, 2011 12:35 PM
Airline apologizes after quadriplegic forced off flight

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - Regional carrier Frontier Airlines apologized on Monday after one of its pilots refused to allow a quadriplegic passenger to fly on a Dallas to Denver flight over the weekend because of safety concerns.

John Morris, a 24-year-old college student from Fort Collins, Colorado, was removed from the jet after the pilot determined that a seat belt extension, normally used for large passengers, was inadequate to restrain Morris.

"We're sorry for the incident and are investigating its handling," the airline said in a statement.

"In this situation we had a well-intentioned pilot who was seeking to do the right thing to ensure the safety and compliance of all involved."

Morris could not be reached for comment, but told Denver's ABC-TV affiliate that he felt humiliated.

He was accompanied on the flight by his mother, Kathleen, who told the television station the pilot never left the cockpit to assess the situation.

"He (the pilot) was not willing to come back and talk to John," she said.

Morris, who was left a quadriplegic by a snowboarding accident five years ago, returned to Colorado on Sunday aboard a later Frontier flight.

Mike Fergus, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said in general individual pilots can exercise wide discretion on safety issues.

"The basic rule is that the pilot has complete authority over all aspects of the aircraft,' he said.

Frontier said it is investigating the incident.

"We will be taking the steps necessary to ensure clarity on the policies so that the situation is not repeated," the airline said. "Once the investigation is concluded, we will be sharing the outcome with the family involved."

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Greg McCune)