Blind Man Kicked Off Frontier Airlines Flight Because He’d Be a ‘Liability’ in an Emergency

Frontier Airlines, remade in the image of Spirit, has its share of bizarre policies and even stranger passengers.

A monkey got loose on a flight to Las Vegas. A woman kicked at the cockpit of her flight and stripped naked.

But what Frontier Airlines really cannot abide, it seems, it a passenger who is blind. At least if Kliphton Miller’s experience is any indication.

Copyright: zhukovsky / 123RF Stock Photo

Miller is 44 years old, blind, and travels with his 18 month old granddaughter. He reports never having had a problem with American Airlines or Spirit.

On May 23 he traveling Tampa – Las Vegas, bringing his granddaughter home to her parents. Or so he thought.

While he manages to get through the security checkpoint himself, and finds his way through the airport, when he asked a Frontier Airlines employee for assistance boarding,

that’s when airline employees began to question his ability to watch over the young child during the flight.

Frontier employees told Miller that he would be a liability in the case of an emergency. They said it was against their corporate policy to let him on board.

He says he can manage by himself if he needs to, and even changes his granddaughter’s diaper on his own in the lavatory although “[u]sually flight attendants will help.” He “was a single dad for 10 years” and was a stay at home father and he believes he’s “completely capable.”

Frontier refunded his ticket. He flew two days later without incident. But it was only a Department of Transportation complaint, apparently, that elicited an apology from the airline.

“We apologize to the passenger for the inconvenience he encountered while traveling with us last week. There was a customer service failure during his travel experience with us at TIA,” said Richard Oliver, a spokesman with Denver-based Frontier Airlines. “We have coached airport team members and ensured compliance with Frontier policy that ensures all passengers are treated with respect and ensures that we are sensitive to their individual travel needs.”

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Is it really unreasonable to question the ability of a blind man to transport and care for an 18-month-old child?

  2. Yes it is unreasonable. We have laws like the ADA. The action by Frontier was knee jerk discrimination against a person with a disability. The people from Frontier in question here should have done everything in their power to assist him. Instead, they kicked him like a junkyard dog. Just another stupid stunt by the airlines in the US. I guarantee that would have never happened in Europe.

  3. iahphx,
    Yes, it is unreasonable. Persons who are blind and with other disabilities are protected by the Air Carrier Access Act and Part 382. This is blatant discrimination.

    If you have low expectations of a blind parent, I would suggest you check out the National Federation of the Blind web site.

  4. Not really sure where the airline had a right to get involved here. So blind people can’t take care of children now? This sounds like a situation where the airline needs to be severely fined.

  5. US airlines really like to kick people with disability. After an amputee, now a blind man? What the hell is wrong with the people?

  6. Whether it’s United or Frontier or even TSA, it’s a simple case of somoeone on a power trip.

    He (or she) thought that he have the authority on who he can let in or boot from the flight. He’s misusing his authority, just like any other people who knew that they have the power over others.

  7. What if the grandfather was obviously mentally disabled? No duty on the part of the airline to make sure the child was accompanied by a responsible adult? I’m pretty sure that’s not correct.

    The ADA provides important protections, but it does not require everyone to abandon their common sense. I think most people would understand an airline’s concerns about a blind grandfather taking care of an 18-month old on an airplane. This definitely falls in the “bad idea” camp.

  8. BTW, what happens if the blind grandfather (who somehow had a driver’s license from before he was blind) showed up at the rental car counter with an 18-month old. You give him a car?

  9. A simple mistake, blown out of proportion. Laws cannot predict every situation, such as the infant needing care by a person classified as blind and therefore legally disabled.
    But there are limits to how much a business can accommodate a disabled person, and air travel, although safe, is not without constraints. Low cost airlines have even more constraints, but if I was Frontier or Spirit or Allegiant, competing with legacy big carriers, I would keep a couple of very low paid and therefore low cost flight attendants available to travel with highly disabled individuals. Maybe even lobby congress for federal subsidy for employees primarily serving this purpose. If noted on a reservation in advance, it could be relatively painless to help these customers.
    But don’t spring it on the airline at the gate and expect them to just go along just because you can or are legally entitled.

  10. Bill says:
    June 2, 2017 at 10:46 pm
    Not really sure where the airline had a right to get involved here.
    Can this man find the emergency exit carrying an infant? Yet, he needs help to the lavatory with her.
    yet, airlines accept non ambulatory passengers as well and are briefed.

  11. Ok I think a lot of people here are mentally ill!

    I have a daughter who 17 1/2 months old, 18 months for the purpose of this conversation. What has when she poops and her diaper needs to be changed, how can a blind person reasonably assure that her burger is properly cleaned and does not have shoved it from her moving around? yeah it happens to my daughter from time to time and you have to be able to see it to make sure it is properly cleaned to keep healthy and clean, she has not had a Urinary Tract Infection yet some do get and we are determined to make sure she does not.

    If there is an emergency and evacuation how is he going to make sure she gets out?

    How is he feeding her, at that age they are not completely on regular food yet, they are transitioning, our daughter is very smart and alert, but we still have to do the spoon feeding for her.

    How can he tell if she is dehydrated or becoming dehydrated he can see her.

    I could go on and on and on and on, people if you do not have a toddler or did not take an active role in raising one and I mean all aspects everyday. ( When I am home I take over most of our daughters care, and I can tell everyone here. I need both of my eyes to keep an eye on her and make sure she is well taken care of ) Then do not start bashing the airlines over stupid stuff, the blind person cannot adequately care for a toddler male or female and that is it.

    The FA’s are there to help and to assist everyone in their needs not care for person the entire flight, if an emergency occurs in flight that is different, but they do not start the flight short handed, it is not fair to the other PAX, FA’s.

    ADA is protect people with disabilities not to be used as a way to force others to care for them or their grand children.

    If I or my wife were on the plane we would have been compelled to help the little girl, which would have taken away from our enjoyment. Or stopped us from doing other things.

  12. I have to ask why the parents would have a legally blind grandparent take the responsibility of an 18 month old that needs diaper changing and feeding. Maybe we should be questioning their judgement putting the care and responsibility on the grandfather. It’s not a long flight, but what if there were delays or cancellation of the flight? I believe the airline was wrong in keeping them from the flight. I was a flight attendant and with Delta connection and never denied
    anyone with a disability. The parents should not have put the grandfather in total care of the child if he has to have assistance to care for her.

  13. 1. Blind or legally blind does not necessarily equate to totally blind. From what has been reported here, the extent of this man’s impairment is unknown.

    2. Unless this would somehow increase exposure to legal liability or there are other issues of practicality, it would seem to be a good idea for airlines to set up a “hotline” that employees would be required to consult in these situations and before kicking anyone off an airplane. Sports leagues use instant replay and centralized replay review by experts to ensure they get close calls as right as possible. It would be easier to intensively train and monitor a centralized small group rather than the thousands of customer service reps who deal with these issues.

  14. This is another example of letting folks with their BS ESA rat dog on planes with no exception but here you have a blind guy and he can’t fly. What if he was carrying a mini pig as an ESA animal to help him deal with the smell of dirty diapers?

    I’m surprised of the amount of commenters defending the airline here with comments like “what if he went to rent a car” well, if he was trying to fly the plane the you’d have an intelligent point. Sure, I’d agree with the argument that yah maybe he’s less able than others but so is the 5’2″ sales guy that weighs 275lbs. Maybe we should only allow folks 6′ that can bench press at least 200lbs? My gosh, besides as a FF we all know that when planes have issues it’s either really good (everyone lives) or really bad. It’s also less safe to ride a bicycle on the street or walk and text yet we’re not calling CPS if we see a parent doing this. God bless this guy for actually trying to overcome a real disability here. Frontier screwed up and I agree that they need a somewhat substantial monitary penalty to they don’t do this in the future.

  15. I’m legally blind in one eye. Legally blind is 20/200. I can’t read any line on an eye chart with that eye to save my life. On the other hand, legally blind doesn’t mean I can’t see. I can see my mouse, I can see my 2 keyboard, and 2 monitors with my bad eye. I can see my drink.

    I also have a 2.5 year old and a 3 month old. Once in a while I close my good eye and function. I can do 95% of what a regular person can do, except drive. I can feed my kids, change them, watch them. Would I see some poop that sneaked out of the diaper? Maybe not. But most people on an airplane are parents too and the overwhelming majority of them will help too.

    My guess is this guy isn’t “black” blind, and I certainly not going to judge him. In an emergency situation, even if he was black blind, all he needs to do is hold someones hand.

    If the best that the internet can come up with is that he might miss some poop in the lavatory because no one will help him and he can’t find the emergency exit on his own, he deserves to fly.

  16. Did someone say this man has a drivers license from before he lost his sight? As way of making some point? I think he thought to board a plane you have to show your DL. Most visually impaired people get non-drivers identification cards from the DMV. The only difference is it does not license us to operate a motor vehicle. See.. the general public has no idea how we do anything! So to them we’re all just bumbling idiots looking to burden fellow passengers.

    I know a couple, married for 25+ years, they’re both blind. They raised 3 normal-vision kids (including a set of twins) without any special help. I think they maybe got the ocassional babysitter is all. Those kids all graduated from college and are happy, sussessful young adults. I think a legally blind grandpa can manage to change a toddler’s diaper. You develop workarounds and use lots of disinfectant wipes & hand sanitizer People, please become more enlightened! I know not everyone knows a visually impaired person but FYI, we usually do pretty well with just ocassional assistance. Frontier has a lot of employees some of whom made a mistake, aplologized.. Let’s move on.. hopefully a litule lesd ignorantly!

  17. Once upon a time, not all that long ago, I got on a plane in Tampa headed to Phoenix. Not far, but far enough.
    The plane was held for one last person to get on. He did so; we took off. The plane leveled, but the captain asked passengers to remain in their seats with belts buckled. The last-boarding passenger began walking down the aisle passing out copied messages.
    The messages said, in effect, that he had Tourette’s Syndrome. There was a brief explanation and several apologies. The message also said that his being on the plane was protected (whatever the word) by the American’s with Disabilities act. Slow murmurs of sympathy ( Awwww…) began in the back of the plane and moved forward. How dreadful. Poor man.
    He sat back down and the FA’s started to serve drinks and snacks.
    I was certainly not shocked by his condition and, frankly, I am rather well-informed on his condition.
    Nonetheless, by the time we were passing over Memphis, I would happily have accepted a parachute and taken my chances. Based on the groans and mutterings of a different kind, I imagine that half the passengers on board felt the same way. And what a rowdy bunch trying to get off in Phoenix!
    I’ve never yet figured out ‘the right thing’ with that whole experience.
    My primary point is not to compare this story with the blind grandfather. But my view is that 120 people +/- confined in a metal tube with rigid seating, very little personal space, few considerations for individual differences (e.g. my sore left knee, your all garlic diet, his perfume allergy, her incessant sneezing etc.) is inherently unnatural. Most of us would not commit ourselves to that set up to listen to a speech or concert, watch a film, performance, or fashion show. The confined-to-a-tube set-up with very restricted movement is too likely to offer pain and discomfort. For quick transportation we “agree” to tolerate miserable conditions with a high emotional and sometimes physical price to pay. We put ourselves in the hands of a large corporation intent on (immediate? great? gross?) profit. The guarantees are fewer all the time. And, we are often watched over by people whose judgement I would not ordinarily trust.

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