David and Linda TobinDavid and Linda Tobin

Getting Kicked Off of the Plane in Denver

March 6th, 2009, was to be an exciting day. My husband David Tobin was being discharged from Craig Hospital in Colorado and we were to fly home after being there for over 4 months of rehab. On October 8th, 2008, he had fallen out of a tree while picking apples in MN and immediately became a C4 quadriplegic.

One of the classes at Craig was about air travel. My sister and brother in law and came from California, and since they planned on accompanying us home also took the class. Craig made the arrangements-with the information about how disabled Dave was- for the four of us to fly from the Denver airport to Fargo, ND airport on Frontier. Frontier contracted with Lynx for smaller flights.

It all started fine with the “scouts” helping Dave on the aisle chair and” lugging” him up the stairs that had been pushed up to the plane. We got him transferred to his seat and then the rest of the plane was boarded. We had a white transfer belt that we were going to put around his shoulders for take of and landing-as we had been instructed to do in travel class.

Suddenly things went wrong. The flight attendants wouldn’t meet our eyes and there seemed to be some commotion with the pilots looking at us and going back in. We were told they were making phone calls. After a long delay, we were curtly told Dave had to be removed from the plane because he was a hazard to other passengers. It seemed the white belt caused the problem and we said we didn’t need to use it. We were told he would be forcibly removed and saw them pushing the stairs to the plane.

We frantically called Craig and they were trying to get hold of the Frontier liaison. A woman whose title I can’t recall came and told us it was the pilots’ determination and my husband would be forcibly removed. The scouts came on the plane with the aisle chair. We insisted on doing the transfer safely and it was scary watching him bump down the stairs on the tiny aisle chair. Before we knew it, we were on the tarmac in the wind by the noisy plane. They never even shut the prop off. My sister yelled over the roar to get his manual chair out of luggage because he was still balanced and strapped on the aisle chair. The passengers in the plane were watching the entire thing-we felt humiliated and afraid.

We had no idea what to do. After being in the airport several more hours, Frontier bought us tickets and United Airlines flew us to Fargo with no problems. The United pilot told us he was embarrassed for the industry. What a first experience out in the world after SCI. When we got to our new home there was so much to adjust to. If only I knew then what I know now! At first, Frontier refused to refund the tickets since they bought the ones to get us home.

Later a very nice rep called us. She had been in a meeting during the incident and was very apologetic and assured us nothing like this would ever happen again. She offered 4 free tickets for when we needed to return to Craig for a yearly eval. She contacted people at both airports and made sure our flight was flawless-even personally greeting us on the tarmac and making sure we were escorted to the shuttle to Craig. Some of the scouts and a woman who was trying to make arrangements to get us home told us how terrible they felt about that day. We were treated special on the trip home too and I felt like they did their best to make it up.

Then, a few years later, I heard Frontier did the same thing to a quad in Texas and figured they have not learned. We will never fly again.

Linda Tobin, MN