Alaska Airlines Flier's Post Sparks Online Backlash

By: CBS/AP (Posted by Carissa Fox)
By: CBS/AP (Posted by Carissa Fox)


(CBS/AP) BEND, Ore. - A longtime Oregon concert promoter sparked an online backlash against Alaska Airlines with a Facebook post describing what he called "the worst of humanity."

Cameron Clark of Bend wrote to his Facebook friends Friday that he saw a disabled man miss a flight because numerous airline personnel refused to give him extra assistance, even after Clark intervened and asked employees to help.

Clark said the man told him he has late-stage Parkinson's disease.

KTVZ reports Clark's story spread quickly and sparked a series of angry Facebook posts directed at the airline.

The airline sees the incident differently and says employees did their best to accommodate the passenger.

Alaska Airlines officials posted on Facebook that the man's ticket was refunded, and he boarded a new flight Saturday morning. A spokesman said the man never said he was disabled, and airline employees, smelling alcohol, believed he was intoxicated.

In his Facebook post, Clark said the man appeared to be in his 70s and told him that he missed a limited window of time he had to meet his daughter in Bellingham, Wash.

Clark wrote: "what happened to our collective sense of decency, of compassion, of our disposition to help those in need of extra help. alaska airlines. you broke a man's heart today. you maintained your policy, and ignored an opportunity to do the right thing. you broke my heart too."

Clark told KTVZ in a written statement that he never intended for his post to become viral, but the many people who responded to the story and put pressure on Alaska Airlines to "show that the best of humanity is alive and well. that light exists. that accountability is possible."

The man never told airline employees that he had Parkinson's disease or any other disability, spokesman Paul McElroy told The Associated Press on Saturday. Officials believed he was intoxicated because they smelled alcohol.

"We are prohibited from asking customers if they have a disability, and the customer never told us that he had Parkinson's, or any disability for that matter," McElroy said. "He did appear disoriented to us, and later, when we smelled alcohol, we were led to the conclusion he was intoxicated."

"We don't know whether this customer has Parkinson's or not," McElroy added.

McElroy said the passenger has not complained to the airline.

Clark responded in Facebook to Alaska Airlines' statement: "this is truly outrageous! i stood next to the man, and spoke face to face with him - much closer in proximity than any of Alaska's folks across a counter. i smelled nothing. isn't it conceivable that someone absolutely mistook his parkinson's behavior for that of someone being impaired? you folks are starting to make a bed that will be very difficult to climb out of... Alaska Airlines you have hit an all time low with this post. tragic."
© 2012 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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