Braille Monitor November 1986
Bay St. Louis, Mississippi
Customer Services Department
New York Air
On Saturday, April 26, 1986, I was on New York Air flight 262 from New Orleans to Newark for purposes of going to obtain a Seeing Eye dog. I feel that the treatment I received at the hands of well meaning but misinformed flight personnel cannot be overlooked.
I was patiently awaiting the call to board when a flight attendant on flight 262 (who later identified herself only as Gayle) asked if I wished to preboard. I politely declined but she kept insisting until I had to be more firm in my resolve. She then informed me that if I did not preboard I would have to wait until all other passengers were on the plane. Since I was seated near the front of the plane, which was the last group to be called, I had intentions of boarding with my proper group. When my group was called I took my place in line and was quite competently following the person in front of me, doing just fine, when Gayle grabbed my arm and said "He can't go down without flight personnel." She then immediately proceeded to walk down with me, declining to use the correct procedure of allowing me to take her arm, and informed other flight personnel that she had a blind man and three U.M.'s, which we all know stands for "Unaccompanied Minors."
When I got on board, another flight attendant named Tony tried to take my cane away. I only got out of that one because, for reasons of my own, I had my collapsible cane with me. All this occurred in spite of the fact that, according to my research, your own policy says that preboarding and bulkhead seating are optional. Also, a "Special Service Advisory" was attached to my ticket when I checked in without my knowledge or consent.
On the return flight, flight 251, May 22nd, New York Air personnel attempted to change my advance seat selection from #A to a bulkhead seat IF without my knowledge. It was only due to the presence of a Seeing Eye instructor that I avoided that one.
Blind people are tired of the harassment we have received from airline personnel. I do not wish special forms on my ticket; if I decline preboarding I want my wishes respected; I am not a child and bitterly resent being treated like one and classified in the same grouping. Also, FAA regulation 121-589 specifically reads that we may keep our canes at our seats. I hope that New York Air will take steps to correct these problems in the future and have a word with the flight attendants involved. In the meantime, however, I have recommended to Seeing Eye that it avoid using New York Air whenever possible. Also, a copy of this letter is being sent to Kenneth Jernigan, President, National Federation of the Blind, and to Trent Lott, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C., for whatever actions they may wish to take.
All we wish is to be treated as any other passenger and to be left in peace to get to our destinations. We don't need the arrogant attitude of overbearing flight personnel who believe themselves to be experts on blindness. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.