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Man with Disability Rejects Airline’s Explanation

EXETER — American Airlines is now telling its side of the story after a man with a disability claims the airline removed him from a flight from Los Angele...

EXETER -- American Airlines is now telling its side of the story after a man with a disability claims the airline removed him from a flight from Los Angeles to Philadelphia without giving him a reason.

We first talked with that man from Luzerne County a couple weeks ago. Now he calls American's explanation full of holes.

Mark Smith's experience with American Airlines last month got national attention when Smith claimed the airline forced him off his flight. The man from Shavertown has cerebral palsy and travels often as part of his job with Pride Mobility.

Smith has now received an email from American Airlines saying that he chose to get off the plane.

Smith says that is just not true.

"My dignity was checked at the gate with American Airlines," Smith said.

On March 27, after boarding an American Airlines jet at the Los Angeles International Airport, Smith says flight attendants and ground crew workers escorted him off the plane and booked him on a later flight to Philadelphia.

"I don't know why, when I was being removed, why I was not given an explanation," he said.

Late last week, American Airlines sent Smith an email explaining that Smith's power chair would not fit in the plane's cargo hold.

"The aircraft's cargo door opening on this particular aircraft is 33" tall and 48" wide. While our ground staff tried on several occasions to load your wheelchair into the cargo hold they were, unfortunately, unsuccessful."

We measured smith's power chair.

"Wheel to wheel, 24 inches, height 29 inches."

"The dimensions of the cargo hold well exceed the dimensions of my power chair," said Smith.

Smith claims an airline worker told him the power chair was in the plane's cargo bay just after he was taken off the plane. He says he had to wait about a half hour to get his chair back and records show that flight left 35 minutes late.

"American Airlines' reasoning does not add up," Smith said.

But the airline says Smith knew why he left the plane in its email. American writes that Smith had, "the option of traveling on your original flight with your wheelchair following on another flight, or that you could travel with your wheelchair on the next available flight that could accommodate your wheelchair. Our records show you opted to travel with your wheelchair and therefore deplaned with assistance from our ground staff."

"I had hoped that American's response was an honest one," Smith added.

Smith has filed a formal complaint against American Airlines with the U.S. Department of Transportation.

American Airlines would only say it addressed his concerns in last week's email, and that when it re-booked Smith on the later flight to Philadelphia, it upgraded his seat to first class.

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