Bede, A 16-year-old boy with Down Syndrome was refused entrance to a flight by an American Airline Pilot.  Bede’s father, Robert Vanderhorst, believes the airline violated his son’s civil rights and the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), and is considering filing a lawsuit against American Airlines.

However, the ADA does not apply to airlines.  The only law that applies when there has been disability discrimination on an airline is the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA).  The Air Carrier Access Act prohibits discrimination in airlines by domestic and foreign air carriers against individuals with physical or mental impairments.  However, with every rule there is an exception. Under the ACAA, the pilot may refuse transportation of a disabled individual if he would endanger the safety of the other passengers.

American Airlines claims the boy was agitated and not ready to fly.  However, Bede’s father believes that the only reason the pilot decided Bede couldn’t board the flight was because he would “disturb the tranquility of those flying in first class.”  Unfortunately for Bede, if American airlines can show Bede’s agitation would endanger the safety of other passengers, then Bede has no claim against the airline.

Is it fair to give Pilots such broad discretion to decide whether someone with a disability poses a danger to the safety of other passengers? Are Bede’s civil rights being violated?  Do you think Bede’s father has a valid claim against American Airlines?

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