Southwest Airlines Accused Of Disability Discrimination

An American passenger has called out Southwest Airlines for alleged disability discrimination. Jon Morrow of Austin, Texas claims that Southwest is making it impossible for passengers like him to travel. Additionally, he alleges that this is in violation of the Air Carrier Access Act.

Southwest disability discrimination
Mr Morrow claims that his treatment from southwest counts as disability discrimination. Photo: Southwest Airlines

The Air Carrier Access Act bans commercial airlines from discriminating against passengers with disabilities. In practice, this is widely known as allowing passengers to travel with service animals. Southwest even allow passengers to take miniature horses acting as service animals onboard aircraft. However, it also means that airlines are required to cater to disabilities such as Mr Morrow’s.

The background

Mr Morrow claims that Southwest is violating his right to travel under the Air Carrier Access Act. He has a condition which means that his bones are brittle, and his spine is fused. Additionally, his doctor states that it is extremely dangerous for Mr Morrow to be moved by hand in the setting of an aircraft cabin.

Enter the eagle lift. The eagle lift is a device used to move passengers such as Mr Morrow. In fact, he claims “every airport in Canada, England, Australia, and New Zealand uses a device called an Eagle Lift”.

Now, the eagle lift costs around $15,000. Rather than expecting Southwest to provide an eagle lift, Mr Morrow bought his own. He even ensured that his carers were certified to use the lift by the manufacturer.

Southwest mistakenly told Mr Morrow that he could use his Eagle lift on board their flight. However, this was later marked as “incorrect information” by another member of the Southwest team. In the end he did fly, but it was with JetBlue instead. It is understood that Mr Morrow is looking to launch legal action against Southwest. Simple Flying are currently unable to confirm if this has happened, however, we have reached out to his representatives.

Southwest response

Simple Flying reached out to Southwest regarding the matter. A Southwest spokesperson told Simple Flying,

“Southwest Airlines takes pride in making air travel accessible to Customers who require assistance when flying with us and is committed to full compliance with regulations under the Air Carrier Access Act. In this instance, the Customer was informed that we do not have boarding procedures for the safe use of his personal Eagle Lift device nor do our Employees have training for storage of the device.”

Southwest disability discrimination
Mr Morrow could be looking to file a lawsuit against Southwest. Photo: Pixabay

They went on to add,

“This final decision was made after reviewing the device’s specifications and the requirements for transporting it and the Customer safely. However, we have been in contact with the manufacturer of this device to learn more about the device’s unique handling and storage requirements.”

Do you think Southwest is in the wrong? Let us know in the comments!