Couldn't Guarantee Return Trip For Mother If She Accompanied
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
"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
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
"I have a college degree. I am completely intelligent. I can
make my own decisions. I don't know why I was denied," Gates
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
Gates hopes to catch a flight this weekend... on a different