This story is among the most egregious I’ve heard and as it proceeds it just gets worse and worse.
Debbie Cardarelli is suing American Airlines for more than $1 million over the experience her now deceased husband had last year as the two flew home from Miami to Rochester, New York via Philadelphia in March 2017. As they boarded their connecting segment to Rochester they were told the aircraft, an Embraer ERJ-145, wouldn’t have room onboard for their carry on and they’d have to gate check it.
Richard Cardarelli gave up the bag, but moments later realized he needed his eye drops which were inside “owing to a cornea transplant years earlier.” The baggage handler who took the carry on said he couldn’t touch the bag again, “even though it was still sitting in plain sight a few feet away.”
An argument ensued. The man got his eyedrops. And got arrested. He was acquitted after fighting charges through his last days. The then-59 year old died of cancer 10 months after first being charged.
- The lawsuit argues that the baggage handler “concocted a phony bomb threat out of spite” because the gate agent helped him get his eye drops back.
- And that American Airlines dragged its feet responding to subpeonas, delaying the man’s trial and eventual exoneration as he faced the end of his life.
- The suit further alleges that he was banned from an American Airlines flight he was taking so that he could attend his trial despite assurances he’d be able to fly.
Here’s how events unfolded after the man got his eye drops back,
Twenty minutes or more passed with still the plane sat near the gate, and some passengers began wondering what the holdup was.
Then a group of Philadelphia police officers boarded the plane, along with the same American Airlines ticketing agent who had intervened to retrieve the eye drops.
..[P]olice told her husband that he was under arrest and hauled him off the airplane in handcuffs. Everyone else had to evacuate the plane, while police K-9 teams searched the baggage and the plane for explosives.
…After a night in the city lockup, Richard Cardarelli was charged with disorderly conduct, making a terroristic threat and threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction.
The baggage handler testified Mr. Cardarelli threatened his bag “would blow up.” But she decided this happened after passengers were boarded, 15 minutes later. She hadn’t told anyone right away.
That wasn’t credible, and he was found not guilty.
Since 9/11 airlines have increasingly turned customer service problems into law enforcement problems. Have a frustrating experience with a flight attendant? You might be met by the police. This culminated in last year’s David Dao beating and dragging incident on a United Express flight. But while not an everyday occurance it’s more common than most realize.