American Airlines is facing a lawsuit after their staff allegedly forced a woman to crawl on the plane to get to her seat. Theresa Purcell uses a wheelchair and was not given proper assistance on a flight she booked, and she says that an apology received from the airline after the incident is not enough.
KHON shares that in the lawsuit, Theresa Purcell asks for $75,000 in general damages and she’s also asking for punitive damages. The Independent indicates that in total, Purcell is seeking $2.5 million from the airline in the suit. The incident in question took place about two years ago as Purcell was taking an American Airlines flight departing from San Diego.
Reports indicate that when Purcell arrived at the gate, the agent said that it was too late for them to set up a ramp to assist her in boarding the aircraft. Rather than find a way to help her get onto the plane, it seems that the woman crawled on the plane herself, up the steps and into the plane. She says she was left with no other choice, but she was humiliated and embarrassed in front of about 50 other people.
Theresa Purcell, who also goes by Reece Purcell, is a hip-hop artist who has a bone disease that necessitates the use of the wheelchair. She says she flies frequently, and she always connects with the airline ahead of time to let them know she needs a wheelchair lift or ramp in order to get onto the plane. It seems that this experience was Purcell’s first with American Airlines and she was stunned to get to the jet and discover they were not prepared per her request.
The woman’s attorney contacted American Airlines and asked for compensation. The airline’s response reportedly was that they would not be issuing any type of compensation. Theresa says that she still flies, but she no longer uses American Airlines and she feels haunted by the experience.
While the airline indicated that it would not provide any monetary compensation, KHON reported that American Airlines did issue an apology to the woman who crawled onto the plane. They indicate that they believe it is imperative they provide essential care and have a sensitive approach in helping passengers requiring special care, though that didn’t happen in this instance.
The airline also says in its apology that assistance should have been provided to Purcell, and they believe that employees did not assist as they have outlined in their policies. The statement also indicates that after reviewing the incident, they admit they were in violation of the U.S. Department of Transportation Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel provisions.
The lawsuit is requesting $2.5 million in total in a settlement, though Theresa Purcell’s attorney Christy Ho indicates that if the case were to go to a jury, the woman who crawled onto the plane will seek between $6 and $8 million. So far, reports indicate that American Airlines has not commented on the lawsuit.
[Image via KHOU YouTube video screenshot]