UPDATE: Alaska Airlines is flying brent to be with his daughter today. thank you alaska airlines, for doing the right thing. the public statement on your facebook page, semi-blamed this man, suffering from parksinsons, by suggesting it was his fault he didn't get on the plane because he attempted to take his oversize luggage with him despite being told he should not...
here is my response to that thought:
alaska airlines. thank you for helping this man find his way to his daughter. that was the right thing to do. life is complicated, mistakes are made. humility and repair are always welcome responses. good for you all.
i would caution you about the factual parts of your statement, however... his missing his flight the day before was not a bi-product of his refusal to "not leave his luggage behind"-- he did have oversize luggage, and he was first "ignored" by an agent who decided he didn't get in line on time, and then he was "offered" the chance to get on the plane for a trip that would be an extended period of time- without his luggage-- which most likely had medicines and other essentials he could not leave behind.
the agent who sent him off with his oversize luggage, to be left behind, had me speaking to her throughout his late "check in" process, urging her to "give him extra help" because he was clearly, cognitively impaired (and we were certain he wouldn't fully comprehend what was being said to him)...
my wife and i predicted the events that occurred at security because of this. and if we could predict it, surely your agents could have as well? the truth is, no one stepped up to help these people, even though it was clear they needed extra help.
and the person ... (who) was managing these people backed their comments and behavior by telling me that there were "laws preventing him from providing special treatment to any passenger-- that his staff was right in treating this man like any other passenger." i understand that (he) has suggested, internally, to you all, that what he really meant by this comment, was that his staff has been trained to treat every customer "with an equal measure of respect."
this is a horrible spin. for all of us who were there, we witnessed only a lack of respect, a lack of compassion, a lack of effort to assist this man. fwiw-- sensitivity training is the VERY LEAST thing that should happen for the staff in redmond, oregon.
(Clark also clarified that the woman with the intended passenger was not traveling with him, only helping him to make the flight.)
Later, Clark sent this statement to KTVZ.COM:
it was never my intention to post a facebook narrative about a sad event at the airport, and to have it go viral.
my family and i witnessed a man with parkinsons disease be treated with disregard by the alaska/horizon staff, preventing him from making his flight to see his daughter. their acts of indifference were overt and without care. i brought it to the attention of several counter staff, that this man needed additional help, that he was facing one challenge or another, (and his girlfriend had her own obvious challenges that turned out to be MS) and it appeared as though my requests were irritating to the counter staff at best.
it was in the context of this question, from me to the on-duty manager...
"why was your staff telling me that everyone has to be treated the same way instead of helping this man with his clear disability"-- his response-- (and i wrote this down on site) "by law, we have to treat everyone exactly the same."
today, the airlines did the right thing and flew this man to see his daughter-- as the man had expressed to me this trip was a "bucket list" item of his.
and still, the statement on their facebook page, which blame the man suffering from parkinsons, and and his inability to navigate security with some oversize luggage he possessed (after being told he couldn't get on the plane with his luggage) seem to tell the more authentic way that alaska airlines is reacting to this circumstance. in a phone conversation with me, one of their representatives indicated to me that mr. cook (the redmond airport staff manager) had communicated to him that "it was all a big misunderstanding." that by saying "everyone is to be treated exactly the same," what they really meant by that was that "everyone should be treated with the same measurement of respect."
(The Redmond manager) is spinning this quote. this man and his girlfriend, no matter their back story, no matter their challenges, deserved to be treated with respect, deserved to be assisted in an intuitive sort of way that would allow him to board his plane-- and barring that, one of the counter employees should have listened to my urgings-- that they be treated with extra care, because it was clear they needed extra help. instead, collectively, they spoke of their "everyone has to be treated exactly alike" mantra, and ignored these people's basic needs.
it was sad. tragic even.
the hundreds and thousands of folks who have responded to the story, however, show that the best of humanity is alive and well. that light exists. that accountability is possible.
it is my greatest hope that this man will enjoy his time with his daughter, and that management with alaska airlines/horizon air will review their policies and provide additional sensitivity training to it's staff in redmond.
And Saturday night's update by the airline:
Update on Our Redmond Passenger
by Alaska Airlines on Saturday, August 4, 2012 at 8:49pm ·
We would like to share one last update about our customer who was traveling to see his daughter. We appreciate the community's concern about this passenger's welfare. Please know that we fly a variety of travelers with different needs and provide a variety of services for them every day. Our employees stand ready to assist any customer needing assistance. While we're not allowed to ask if a passenger has a disability, which would violate their civil rights, we can ask if they have special needs we can help with.
In this case, our customer arrived late and didn't request our assistance or let us know of any disabilities. He was also exhibiting signs of inebriation and smelled of alcohol, something we were reluctant to share from an internal report issued immediately after this customer left the airport. We are doing so now to provide some additional background on what drove our perspective on the situation.
Our customer is now at his alternate destination where he said he would be meeting his daughter. And we are conducting a thorough review and follow-up. We're in the preliminary stage of our review and will respond directly to the customer within 10 days.
We appreciate everyone’s patience while we conclude our review. Thank you for your understanding.
Late Saturday night, Clark posted a statement by his wife, Tiffany, on Alaska Airline's page: