D. Baraka Kanaan, of Hawaii and a former philosophy professor at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) who now heads a not-for-profit “Lovevolution Foundation“, (aka “Dr. ‘DreamingBear‘ Baraka Kanaan” per his apparent profile page here) filed a lawsuit on July 23, 2013 in the U.S. District Court in Honolulu (Case No. 13-CV-00365) against Delta Air Lines, Inc. and unnamed defendants (to be identified later) alleging that the airline crew members on two flights instructed him that he must exit the plane without assistance, which for him meant crawling down the plane’s aisle, down the steps, and across the tarmac.

The Complaint
The Complaint alleges federal jurisdiction under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA, 49 U.S.C. 41705)  and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA, 42 U.S.C. 12101, et seq). The ACAA prohibits discrimination by U.S. and foreign air carriers on the basis of physical or mental disability. In interpreting and implementing the ACAA, the USDOT has issued a rule (14 CFR Part 382) setting forth the standards of service which air carriers are expected to provide to disabled individuals.

Plane Aisle Assist Chair

Plane Aisle Assist Chair

Kanaan suffers from partial paralysis of his legs due to spinal injuries he received in a car accident in 2000.  He uses an electric wheelchair. He alleges in the Complaint that he contacted Delta before his July 27, 2012 flights from Maui to all the way to Nantucket to inquire about his required assistance to board the plane, including an aisle wheelchair or “transporter” to reach his seat on the plane.  Upon arriving in Nantucket after a rescheduled flight, a flight attendant told him that no aisle assist chair was available and, as quoted in the Complaint, stated, “I don’t know, but we can’t get you off the plane.”

The result?  Kanaan claims he was forced to crawl out of the plane and across the tarmac without any assistance from the crew and with many people watching. “[T]he flight crew refused to assist Mr. Kanaan, instead serving as spectators themselves.”  I wonder if any bystanders, e.g. other passengers, offered to help him?

And the return trip?  Kanaan alleges that after the first flight, he (1) called the airlines to complain and (2) confirmed with Delta that his return trip WOULD have the required equipment on July 29, 2012.  Nevertheless, when boarding in Nantucket to head back to Maui, no aisle chair… no lift available… but a flight attendant told him they “could provide a piece of cardboard to put down so his clothes wouldn’t get dirty.”  Again, I am amazed that no OTHER persons stepped forward to offer assistance?

Resolution? (“No, thank you.”) After further complaining about his ordeal, Kanaan states Delta offered him 25,000 SkyMiles® and a $100 voucher as compensation, which he refused.  He seeks compensatory and punitive damages to be determined at a jury trial.

Delta had not filed an answer or otherwise pled (e.g. Motion to Dismiss) as of the date of this posting, July 30, 2013.  The court has schedule the matter for an initial scheduling conference on October 21, 2013.

Kanaan’s apparent twitter feed is full of spiritual poetry and YouTube links, but offers little commentary on the Delta incident… until the recent stories have begun to be picked up in the media…

Nothing mentioned on twitter around time of July, 2012 incidents:

a screenshot of a social media post


But recent tweets seem to pick up steam, including a “#Boycottdelta” hashtag:a screenshot of a social media post