Braille Monitor                                                                                August-September 1986

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United Airlines: Sometimes They Do, and Sometimes They Don't

Chicago, Illinois
May 11, 1986

Mr. Marc Maurer
National Federation of the Blind

Dear Mr. Maurer:

I was shocked to learn of your treatment by United Airlines personnel in March of this year and began to do some soul-searching as to what I would do if threatened with being carried from an airplane for refusing to move from my assigned seat.

I became especially anxious when I discovered that I had been assigned an exit row seat on United Flight 998 on April 7, 1986. Because I changed my return flight after buying my ticket, my seat assignment was made by personnel who knew I was blind. I was assigned seat 13-A while standing there holding my cane.

As I boarded the airplane, United personnel watched me take my seat in the exit row. I handed my cane to the gentleman next to me, who stowed it along the window. No personnel came to ask me to move. Perhaps the difference was that I was flying out of Kansas City, not O'Hare.

I say this because in 1978, while leaving O'Hare on a United flight following the NFB convention in Baltimore, I was seated in the exit row and was hassled for forty-five minutes and finally moved, because they threatened to take everyone else off of the plane and leave me there. Also, another blind person sitting on the exit window next to me was not asked to move.

I can only conclude, based on my experience, that a) when flying out of Kansas City blind people are allowed to sit in the exit row when flying United but not when flying out of O'Hare unless you don 't carry a cane; and b) safety is not the issue since I was told that an old person who is unable to climb out the window in an emergency would not be asked to move.

Sincerely yours,

Sharon Duffy