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06/07/2017 / By Frances Bloomfield
When law enforcement officers entered an American Airlines plane to escort one of the passengers off the craft, they expected an extremely intoxicated individual. Michael Mennella greeted them instead. The shaky hobble that American Airline personnel took as a sign of Mennella’s inebriation was actually the result of him being a double amputee with no feet. Why he was staggering down the plane aisle in the first place was simple: he wanted to ask for water to drink his pain medication after he was forced to cross the jet bridge on his stumps. American Airlines forgot to provide him with the wheelchair he requested prior to the flight.
Menella’s ordeal occurred on August 28, 2016, while the suit that followed was filed in federal court in Miami just recently. As reported by MiamiNewTimes.com, the suit stated that: “As demonstrated by police-administered field tests, and as revealed in an official field report, Mr. Mennella was not intoxicated. Instead, he was an innocent victim of AA’s brutish misconduct.”
The word “brutish” is an apt word for what the Florida businessman endured. The flight from Miami International Airport to Las Vegas was diverted to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in order to have Mennella removed from the plane. American Airlines personnel told passengers and Mennella’s colleagues that he was “a drunk”, while airport police were told Mennella was “intoxicated to the point of needing medical attention.”
In the lawsuit, it was stated that “The law enforcement officers proceeded to tell Mr. Mennella that he was being arrested for a felony due to his intoxication, and that the severity of his crime merited a lengthy incarceration.” However, once the officers spoke with the businessman they concluded that he was not under the influence of any substances. Mennella was subsequently released and had to arrange another flight for Las Vegas.
In addition to calling the airline’s actions “negligent”, Mennella’s lawsuit further claimed that American Airlines damaged his reputation and defamed him by calling him a drunk and forcing him off the plane. (Related: United Airlines drags physician kicking and screaming off a flight he PAID FOR because they overbooked and wanted the seat back)
American Airlines believes otherwise. An email that was included in the lawsuit came from an American Airlines customer service representative. In the email, the representative wrote that the flight had to be diverted because of Mennella’s “disruptive and unruly behavior” that was compromising the safety of the other passengers. “We believe our pilot made the correct decision in this situation,” the customer service representative wrote in the email. “And we apologize if you feel otherwise.”
Since the story broke out, American Airlines has been condemned by social media users. “So American Airlines treated a double amputee like a dog. Just disgusting. Time to sell my AA stock.” wrote Kerry L. Armstrong, who added the hashtag “#boycottamericanairlines” to his tweet.
Menenlla’s lawsuit could not have come at a more stressful time for the airline. Just last April, American Airlines was involved in an earlier controversy, one involving a flight attendant and some passengers. In the now-viral video, a flight attendant “violently took a stroller” from a passenger with her baby, hitting the passenger and narrowly missing the child as he did. A male passenger confronted the flight attendant over the incident. While the passenger and flight attendant never came to blows, it escalated to the point that the captain had to step in to diffuse the situation. The flight attendant has since been suspended, while the female passenger and her family were upgraded to first class for the rest of their trip.
It remains to be seen if Mennella will be receiving treated just as fairly.
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