Braille Monitor February 1986
Minneapolis, MinnesotaTo: Miss Peggy Pinder
On October 18, 1985, I boarded Simmons Flight 1757 from Detroit to Lansing, Michigan. It was a 36-passenger plane, and the flight attendant suggested that I take a seat immediately to the right as I entered the plane. I sat in the suggested row and moved over to the window to allow other passengers to have access to the seats to my left without having to climb over me.
The flight attendant, Michelle, asked me if my cane folded up. She informed me that I was seated by an emergency exit.
Although my cane does not fold up, she was satisfied with it along the fuselage. A few minutes later she returned to tell me that I was, at the request of the captain, to move over one seat so that I would not be sitting directly next to the exit. No other passengers had joined me in the row. I asked if this was a rule for all passengers or if it only applied to me because of my blindness. Michelle informed me that federal law prohibited me from sitting next to the window by an exit. I told her that her information was not accurate and that I would remain where I was.
She left to discuss it with Captain Stone and came back to tell me that I had no choice but to move. She even tried to get me to believe that I was upsetting the balance of the plane. She did not hold to that notion long. I explained that there was no federal regulation requiring me to move and that it was as safe for me to sit there as anyone else.
My next conversation was with ground personnel. He also asked me to move, and I finally agreed to a compromise. I would move over; and after the seat belt sign had been turned off, I would move back to my original seat. I made it clear that I would not move again for the landing.
When the seat belt sign was turned off, I did move back to the window seat, and Michelle told me that I could stay there until it was time to land. I reminded her of what I had said, but she ignored me.
Close to landing time she came to tell me to move. When I refused, she informed me that the plane could not land unless I complied with their version of the federal law. I reminded her that I had told them what I would do while we were still on the ground but she claimed not to have heard me.
The pilot came over the public address system to announce to the passengers that there would be a delay in landing because there was a passenger seated in an unauthorized seat and she would not move.
Michelle came back once more to ask me to move, and I told her that Captain Stone had done something that was unforgivable, and I asked if I would have access to the microphone. Of course, I did not get it.
Once again the captain spoke to the passengers while we circled over Lansing. He said that there was a handicapped person seated next to the emergency exit and federal law prohibited our landing with such a person in that seat. He was seeking permission from Marquette to land. (Marquette must be where headquarters are.) If she would just move over one seat, the problem would be solved.
I was then joined by the first officer who asked me to move. I said he should teach his captain some manners and common sense. He said we were dealing with a safety issue and that if I would not move, I would be met by airport security on the ground. I told him that I had been that route before and the last time charges were pressed against me, they were later dropped. If they wanted to go to all that trouble, I was happy to oblige.
Michelle came back one more time and asked if I would change places with another passenger. I asked how she knew it was safe for that particular passenger to sit next to the exit, and she said she just knew that it was. I declined to move.
One more announcement from Captain Stone told us that we had permission to land.
I was met by a gentleman who identified himself as a security officer, and he asked to see some identification. I suggested that we go inside to conclude our business.
He thought the matter was rather silly and said that if they wanted to press charges, they would have to see to it themselves. He filed a report of sorts, and it is enclosed. It does not say anything except that he was there and so was I. We spent about five minutes together, and we were through. Without further delay, I proceeded to the luggage area and then on to the NFB of Michigan convention.