A 71 year old deaf Florida woman was connecting in Austin enroute to Seattle. She was a nervous flyer traveling alone for the first time in her life. Her hearing aid wasn’t working well, and wound up spending 3 days in jail and having her arm broken by police after she was unable to hear instructions from a gate agent – and asked twice to get on an earlier flight.
On September 13, 2022, Karen McGee had a three hour connection and seating herself at her connecting gate. She didn’t hear a gate change announcement for her flight. Her departure time passed, and she didn’t see her flight boarding, so she asked the Alaska Airlines gate agent what had happened. She missed her flight, and got rebooked on a later flight that evening.
However she thought there was another plane at the same gate that would be headed to Seattle (while Alaska and Delta operate the route 5 times daily between them, Delta flights are at the other end of the terminal and this is unlikely) and she asked the agent if she could get on that flight instead of having to wait until evening.
- She was told no, but couldn’t properly hear the explanation.
- So she asked another Alaska agent. That agent called the police.
Credit: Austin Police Bodycam Footage
When officers responded they informed her she was trespassing at the airport. But she couldn’t hear the instruction. She was “placed in a wheelchair and pushed to the front of the airport,” where was was handcuffed and taken into custody on trespassing charges.
She was “shoved against a wall” at the jail and stripped. When she questioned instructions from an officer she couldn’t hear, the officer “twisted her handcuffs with enough force to break her arm” and required surgery.
McGee says that she “lost time” and awoke in a jail cell with her clothes back on, but inside out. Her arm was aching and she held it close to her body. She was given Aleve but not taken to an emergency room. Upon leaving the jail after three days of detention, she collapsed. A police officer called an emergency medical technician, who helped her contact her husband and get her to a hotel for the night. She had surgery on her arm after making it home to Florida.
Even if she was animated, even if she was aggressive (though there’s no evidence of this, and the District Attorney refused to prosecute the trespassing case) at worst she behaved like every low cost carrier passenger from Florida ever, who just happened to be flying a legacy airline instead.
In Austin the police have quiet quit, and by most accounts don’t respond to all but the very serious calls in the face of protracted union contract negotiations with the city. Oddly they chose this incident to act. Karen McGee has yet to file a lawsuit.
[…] hearing that her gate had been changed, she missed her connection. And when an Alaska agent became frustrated as she sought help to get rebooked early (there wasn’t actually an earlier flight), the agent called police – who arrested her […]