A passenger who suffers from multiple sclerosis has accused Delta of lacking compassion and accommodation after she was tied to a wheelchair in Amsterdam with a “used” blanket.
Look at this picture that Maria Saliagas’s son posted to his Facebook account—
It’s heart-wrenching to see another human being appear to be in such agony.
Saliagas was diagnosed with MS five years ago, but still travels to Europe every year with her husband. The Atlanta resident usually flies nonstop on Delta and claims that in years past, Delta has always provided a “proper wheelchair” that feature straps, allowing her to sit up straight.
But when they arrived in Amsterdam earlier this month, there was no special wheelchair available. Instead, a ground service worker improvised by placing Saliagas in a standard wheelchair then using an airline blanket to “tie her up”, thus making her secure.
According to Saliagas’ son (per the Atlanta Journal Constitution):
They took a dirty blanket and tied her forcefully with it, and she has bruise marks on part of her arm because it was so tight and she started crying. That’s when that picture was taken.
Delta has offered the family 20,000 miles in compensation, something Saliagas believes is insufficient. Saliagas does not appear intent on suing Delta, but does want Delta’s policy updated on how it handles passengers with special needs.
In a written statement, Delta did not apologize, but promised to ensure the return flight will be smoother:
We regret the perception our service has left on these customers. We have reached out to them, not only to resolve their concerns, but also ensure that their return flight exceeds expectations.
In Defense of Delta
This is a difficult issue, as is the greater MS issue that Saliagas now battles. Every passenger deserves to be treated with dignity and every reasonable accommodation should be extended to those passengers with special needs.
Here, however, I feel Delta gets an unfairly bad rap. Perhaps the flight manifest did not specify that a special type of wheelchair was needed. Perhaps one was available, but would have taken an hour or two to secure after landing and this make-shift solution proved more tenable. On the one hand, the bruise marks are terrible. On the other hand, had Saliagas not been properly secured and suffered an accident, the situation would be far worse. Was this the best option of many bad ones?
I think Delta tried to accommodate. It’s not like she was hog-tied in disgust. Hopefully Delta will do better on the return and Saliagas can travel to Europe for many years.
photo courtesy of Nathan Saliagas