Delta and their connection partner airline, SkyWest, are the latest airlines to come under fire for discrimination, over an incident involving a passenger with autism.
Ayo Isola said he was traveling from Detroit back home to Houston with his mother, sister and brother, Tayo, who has nonverbal autism and often experiences sensory overload. Upon boarding their flight, Isola realized his family was not seated together.
“For his safety and the safety of those around him, it is important that he sits with a family member on flights,” Isola said in a Facebook post which has now been shared over 4,000 times.
A passenger offered to switch seats with Isola so that he could sit next to his brother, but then a SkyWest flight attendant intervened.
“A nearby passenger offered to give up her seat. She was super helpful,” Isola said. “When my brother sat in the seat, she [the flight attendant] told my brother to move. My family had to step in and tell her why he can’t reply. She was unresponsive to that, very adamant that he needed to get up.”
Other crew members, including the pilot, got involved in the conflict, and eventually they decided to clear the plane. All passengers were asked to deboard the plane and return to the gate.
“It’s never, in all of our flights, been an issue before,” Isola said. “It was not an exit lane and he was sitting very quietly. There was no reason for her to demand a change of seat other than abuse of power. This was blatant discrimination and bigotry.”
The flight was originally scheduled to depart at 5.30pm but did not leave until 8.30pm.
“Delta apologizes to customers on flight 3596, operated by Delta Connection partner SkyWest, for any inconvenience following an onboard event,” a Delta Airlines media representative told the Guardian. “We are currently reviewing the details and have reached out to better understand what happened.”
When asked if Isola would accept compensation or a refund, he said: “I’m not concerned with money at this point. I just want to ensure this never happens again and get some policy change.”