A man was forced to interrupt his travel plans after a captain on a United Express flight from Denver refused to let him travel with his life-saving dialysis machine. My reading of the situation and the airlines’ subsequent response leads me to believe the captain acted in a cowardly fashion.
Man Thrown Off Flight After Captain Refuses To Allow His Dialysis Machine Onboard
Adron Mccarter has kidney disease. A dialysis machine, which re-circulates his blood, is pivotal in keeping him alive. He is fortunate enough to have a portable machine, which spares him frequent trips to the hospital or clinic.
A grandchild was recently born in Spokane, Washington and for the first time in his life, Mccarter stepped onto an airplane: he wanted to visit his new granddaughter. The outbound from Knoxville (TYS) to Spokane (GEG) went smoothly. So did the first leg of his return, from Spokane to Denver (DEN). But when stepping onboard his final leg, a United Express Canadair RJ 700 operated by SkyWest, he ran into a problem.
The captain refused to let him store the dialysis machine in the cabin. Mccarter told WBIR:
“They come across and says we’re going to be delayed, so I got up and went out and when I did the pilot was up in my wife’s face. He came across the microphone and said I was trying to bring something on the plane that wasn’t allowed and then kicked us off in front of everybody like we were just terrorists.”
So easy to second-guess and pile on scorn, isn’t it? Maybe I’m not being charitable enough to the pilot. But we do hold captain’s at a higher standard – like police officers. There is no room for error and we expect sound judgment in all areas under their control. The captain could have easily checked on whether this carry-on was permitted. Maybe he did and his pride kept him from admitting he was wrong.
The Air Carrier Access Act is clear: portable dialysis machines are considered to be medically necessary assistive devices and therefore carriers must permit passengers to stow the portable dialysis machine in the aircraft cabin, if it fits.
Mccarter and his wife were promptly provided a voucher for food and a hotel and re-accomodated the following day, but the travel interruption also messed up his dialysis treatment schedule, forcing a double-treatment. Mccarter added:
“It made me sad. I had a full-blown panic attack and it made me infuriated at the same time. You can’t treat people that way. I’m having to do treatment now. We had to do two in a row so we can get caught up and that’s hard on your body and hard on your heart. So overall, it was one of the top three worst experiences of my life.”
He vows never to fly again.
A SkyWest spokesperson said:
“A passenger was rebooked from SkyWest flight 5423 due to a misunderstanding about the approved medical device with which they were traveling. Together with United, we provided food, lodging and made arrangements to get the customer to his destination as quickly as possible. We apologize for the inconvenience and are following up with our crew to prevent a similar situation in the future.”
If you watch the video above, you’ll see this is a big machine. It likely took up its own seat on the aircraft. Even if we give the pilot the absolute benefit of the doubt and consider such a large item dangerous, a simple call to his union or to management should have revealed this medical device was permitted as a carry-on item. Place this on the floor between seats or strapped into a vacant seat should have alleviated safety concerns. You really want a man to check his life-saving equipment into the belly? Guitar anyone?
Yes, this is a story of rogue pilot who was quickly corrected. SkyWest has taken responsibility for this and should be commended for doing so. Nevertheless, the damage was done and I hope this incident serves as an import reminder for future captains about acting with empathy and following rules instead of acting in (unfounded) fear or pride.
Better safe than sorry, I’m good with the pilot here. We entrust our lives with them, so they get leeway in my book.
There was a time we had no fear of boxcutters on a plane.
Some people just shouldn’t be flying and everyone of us who flies often knows it.
A truly ignorant (yet unsurprising) response
Yep, I’m the guy who gets pissed at all the overweight people in scooters at Disney World slowing others down too.
There comes a point in life where either your life choices or just plain bad luck cause you to become a burden on others. It’s at that point you need to consider how you inconvenience others.
You call it ignorant, I call it common courtesy. And yes, I 100% feel this way, but I assume that won’t shock you. That also said, I’m the guy willing to donate $5,000 to a charity of Matt’s choice on a simple wager if you are willing to match it.
So exactly who is the considerate one here?
Same logic would applied to disabled people too, right?
Of course if the disability is an inconvenience to more than 1 person. Sucks they lost in life’s lottery but they should be happy they aren’t starving in Africa and are lucky enough to be born in America. That said, they don’t need to be flying or ruining others day at Disney World. They ruined enough lives with the ADA.
So basically in your world people who (as you think) got unlucky enough to be disabled & sick are just a burden on society & should either do ourselves in or lock ourselves away from the ‘lucky one’s? Because I need a scooter to get around due to many health issues my grandchildren should only have memories of me at home, I shouldn’t fly to the state they live in because it may inconvenience you? But hey at least I’m not starving in africa right?
Its people like you who truly feel the world revolves around yourself & the rest of us just occupy space.
You are the lucky one. You don’t have to be sick or in pain 24/7 & you don’t have to deal with absolutely jerks telling you that you are a waste of space.
Get over yourself & learn to have compassion for others.
Interesting perspective Dave.
Yup. Apparently he sees the world outlined in BioShock and thinks “why not?”
Maybe the captains brave attorney will sue you for calling him cowardly publicly without all the facts.
He can knock himself out.
Had the passenger informed the airline, when he booked the flight, that he was bringing aboard an unusual piece of medical equipment? This isn’t a CPAP machine after all. I doubt the pilot was at all familiar w this. Aside from the 0.01% how many people have a portable hemodialysis machine ? Circumspection is safety based .
@Matthew, what would Jesus think of calling this pilot a coward for the purpose of clickbait?
I called him a coward because I think he is a coward.
Why is he a coward? Perhaps he was mistaken, but how is that cowardly?
A simple call by the captain to verify the appropriateness of the machine = A simple call by the passenger before the flight to notify the airline that he would be bringing a large machine that takes up a seat.
Hey all, I would have chosen the following words to reflect the Captain rather than cowardly. Un-informed, Thoughtless, but regardless of that one word what he did was embarrass, inconvenience and demonstrate lack of empathy and sensitivity. Disabled travellers have the right to travel and be accommodated and It is the responsibility of the Airline ( Read ALL team members ) to facilitate that travel with as much care, dignity and accommodation as possible. If I was the CEO of this airline I would tell that Captain and crew to ” Do Better & Be Better ” I would invite that couple to an apology meeting with the crew there and give them a couple of free trips to visit their granddaughter.
Finally to Dave Edwards – You are entitled to your opinion Dave, but I man sure glad you are not the CEO of an airline or Disneyland….
Disability means we show compassion and support…
Adding onto Tim’s comment, any Captain (or airline employee) with common sense would know the passenger was connecting… so why all of a sudden is the medical equipment *now* not allowed?
Secondly, this is Matthew’s blog, he can call the headline whatever he wants. You are not forced to read it and you are free to start your own blog. In fact, I would have titled this “Captain Dick Throws Man off Flight…”
Disability means you lost in life’s lottery but you still are better off than being born in many places. Sorry but you don’t get special treatment at the expense of others. Have some common courtesy and stay at home, so much good stuff streaming these days.
Appreciate what you have and stop being jealous of others. I can’t play for the Lakers next to Lebron, like you, I’ll live.
Dave, considering the circumstances, you have just shown that you are cold and callous.
If I was in the person’s shoes I would have been furious and very upset.
Good on skywest for at least making a massive attempt to rectify the situation but a situation that shouldn’t have been caused in the first place.
Hope they at least discipline the captain for this.
Middle finger to this coward pilot.
That “United Breaks Guitars” reference was fantastic, Matthew. I don’t think a sequel (after 2017’s “United Breaks People” sequel) entitled “United Breaks Dialysis Machine” would go down well AT ALL, do you?