For a passenger with autism, air travel can be a bit stressful particularly while dealing with crowds and clearing security. And if autistic passengers are not treated fair enough onboard, it may raise questions on the airline on humanitarian grounds. Recently, Delta airlines came into light when its crew member refused to allow a passenger with autism to sit near a family member and forced everyone to get off the plane.
Flight crew refuses to accommodate passenger with autism
Ayomide Isola, 23, was flying on SkyWest 3596 from Detroit to Houston with his mother, sister and Tayo, 21-year-old brother who was nonverbal and unable to express himself. On arriving at the gate, Isola, a graduate student at University of Houston learnt that they were all seated apart. Since Tayo suffered from OCD, sensory overload and many other symptoms that could make air travel difficult for him, Isola wanted him to sit with a family member on flight. When they boarded the flight, a woman quickly volunteered to switch seats with Tayo so he could be near his sister during the more than two-hour flight. But a flight attendant quickly became enraged over the arrangement and allegedly demanded that Tayo take his original, assigned seat. Despite being informed that he was a passenger of autism, the cabin crew would not relent. After being delayed for nearly an hour, she spoke with the pilot and pressed for both Isola’s family and the woman who swapped seats with his brother to be booted from the plane. She called them a ‘safety hazard’. Even though most of the passengers including the airport security official were in favor of Isola’s family, the pilot instructed everyone on the plane to exit the aircraft. The pilot and his crew exited the terminal and the 74 other passengers had to deplane and wait for three hours for a new crew to board the plane.
Delta apologizes and crew grounded
Delta has reached out to the Isola family and has apologized for their inconvenience on flight 3596, operated by Delta Connection partner SkyWest. Now, the crew including the pilots, have been grounded while the airline is investigating the incident. While Delta is committed to provide exceptional onboard service to its customers, it’s definitely not right to treat people with special needs as if they are unworthy of your time or effort. Even out of humanity, a simple accommodation and a bit of compassion could have really made a difference, at least it would have been practical enough to lessen chaos and flight delays.