Braille Monitor April 1986
Kansas City, Missouri
January 27, 1986
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
I mistakenly believed that I had experienced or heard of all the problems that we could face concerning airlines. My recent experience with Braniff showed that there is no limit to the stupidity and arrogance of some airline personnel.
My aunt, who comes from New York, stayed with us for a few weeks when the new baby arrived. She was returning to New York on Saturday, November 30, 1985, at 1:05 p.m. on Braniff flight 522. Kansas City International Airport had just instituted a new policy which prohibited parking and waiting at the airport. Jana's parents drove me to the airport. I would simply carry my aunt's suitcase to the ticket counter for check-in and walk with her to the departure gate. Jana's parents would look for me when I left the terminal. Surely nothing could go wrong.
My aunt and I approached the ticket counter. I was holding Dean's harness in my left hand and her bag in my right. An airline representative must have put two and two together and came up with five. A voice directly behind me boomed out "block off two seats for the dog."
The buffoon with the megaphone voice brought me to full attention. I spoke to the ticket agent and said, "A) I'm not even taking this flight; and B) If I was flying, there was no need to assign an extra seat because of the dog guide.
The ticket agent told me that it was Braniffs policy to assign an extra seat to blind passengers with dog guides so that there would be more room. She also said sweetly and sarcastically that there were vacant seats if I cared to take this flight. I told her that I was not interested and that Braniff should change its policies regarding blind persons with dog guides. She told me that this was a good policy.
Due to icy road conditions we were just in time for the flight. My aunt was becoming nervous and afraid that she would miss her flight. I decided that I would deal with Braniff at another time when my own flight was in question. I gritted my teeth and walked with my aunt to the departure gate.
This incident is trivial compared with the confrontations many of us have had with the airlines. The behavior of the airline official was stupid and even comical. I still become angry and annoyed because airline personnel did not speak to me first before making false assumptions. Joyce Scanlan summed it up when she said that we are not regarded as people.
Dr. Jernigan, the evidence in recent Monitors is overwhelming. I have had enough.
The NFB is often described as a bunch of militants and radicals. I do not consider myself either a militant or a radical. Politically, I am most of the time in agreement with the Reagan Administration and others who describe themselves as political conservatives. I attend mass on Sundays and find myself swelling with pride on patriotic occasions or when the Star Spangled Anthem is sung. It would have been wonderful if I, along with other blind people, could have served their country in a support capacity in the Armed Forces. Liberal, militant, radical, no way! However, it is time for us to stop behaving like ostriches and take our heads out of the sand. The Jews refused to deal with reality and appeased Hitler and paid a heavy price. Blacks did not gain self-respect until they respected their right to be treated as equals under the law. Unfortunately the airlines will not leave us alone.
True conservatives recognize that change must sometimes occur. Hopefully, change can occur peacefully through an evolutionary process. Prior to the American Revolution the colonists begged, pleaded, and reasoned with King George III of England. Unfortunately the King was sliding down the slippery road to insanity. His dull-witted advisors were not much help. Finally, reason gave way to action, and America became a reality.
Hopefully, top airline management will listen to reason and come to their senses. Flying will once again become an enjoyable and pleasant means of travel. I have reluctantly answered the wake up call, but I am no longer reluctant. It is now time to march together on the barricades.