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Wed, Jun 13, 2007

US Airways Tells Man He Is 'Too Disabled' To Fly Alone

Couldn't Guarantee Return Trip For Mother If She Accompanied Him

Andy Gates planned to fly to Wisconsin last week from Jacksonville, FL. He booked a flight on US Airways -- as he's done in the past -- went to the airport, checked his baggage, went through security, and waited to board like everyone else.

Just as he was preparing to board the aircraft June 6, gate agents informed him he could not board. They had determined he could not travel by himself, according to WKMG Orlando Channel 6.

"We went to the gate and they told me I could not fly... not alone," Gates said.

Gates has dystonia -- a neuro-muscular disease -- and is confined to a wheelchair.

"They said I was too disabled to fly alone. I don't have enough words to describe how angry I am." He said he felt outraged and discriminated against.

The airline manager told him he could fly if his mother, Patsy Gates, went with him.

"He says to me, 'You have six minutes to make a decision on whether to go. You can go with him or he cannot go. You have six minutes,'" she said. "Meanwhile, I am parked in a 30 minutes parking zone, and I'm having surgery tomorrow, and they did not guarantee me a way back."

Gates doesn't understand the furor -- as he's flown seven times in the past alone, even on US Airways... and hasn't had a problem.

"I have a college degree. I am completely intelligent. I can make my own decisions. I don't know why I was denied," Gates said.

The day after the incident, US Airways issued a statement that said, "US Airways personnel determined that (Gates) would not be able to assist in his own evacuation in the event of an emergency. We feel that our employees acted appropriately and followed both company and federal policy in this situation."

There is a law that says if a person has mobility impairments so severe they would not be able to assist with an evacuation, they can be denied travel. However, Gates said he could control his legs and arms enough to get into his chair, and he offered to demonstrate that to the airline.

The carrier said it would issue a refund, but it would take some time.

Gates hopes to catch a flight this weekend... on a different airline.



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