WASHINGTON (Scripps Howard News Service) — A Delta Air Lines representative Wednesday admitted it used bad judgment when its flight crew ignored passenger requests to let a Marine double-amputee take an offered first class seat earlier this month, according to Rep. Stephen Fincher.
Marine Lance Cpl. Christian Brown, 29, of Munford, Tenn., lost both legs when he stepped on a bomb in Afghanistan last December and now has prosthetic legs.
Returning from Atlanta to Washington, D.C., on Dec. 9, he was brought aboard the flight in a wheelchair used for those who can't manage the narrow aisle and placed in the cabin's last row. A first-class passenger offered to switch places and other passengers tried to persuade flight attendants to allow the switch, but they refused, according to a complaint filed by one of those passengers, a retired Army colonel.
Fincher, a Republican from Frog Jump, Tenn., said he visited with Brown recently to hear his story and plans to meet with him in his home district during the holidays if the fiscal showdown has ended.
Fincher met on Wednesday with Sally Veith, director of government affairs for the airline.
"I just wanted an explanation of what had happened," said Fincher. "This young man has given so much to this country, and I wanted an explanation of what was going on.
"Basically, it seems to be that there was maybe a lack of judgment by employees of Delta when this young man was flying on this flight that was going from, I think, Atlanta to DCA. They are reviewing their policies. They have reached out to Lance Corporal Brown to try to make contact to express their lack of judgment and error."
For Fincher, the incident prompted reflection. "But you know, we've all got to be -- how do I say this? We've got to be more compassionate, I think, as a society. People are not just a number. They're not just a name. We've got to do a better job than we've been doing. Delta admits this was a bad judgment," he said.
Fincher vowed to "stay on top of this. We're going to see this through because, not only is he a veteran, but he's a constituent and, now that I know him, a friend and hopefully we'll become better friends," the lawmaker said.
"We're going to be hopefully hooking up during the holidays, if we can finish up here," Fincher said, adding he'd like to invite the Marine to deer hunt with him.
"So, hopefully, he'll take me up on it and we can go down to the farm in Frog Jump and do some deer hunting," Fincher said.
Brown is reportedly in daily rehabilitation at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and Fincher's office declined to provide contact information out of respect for his privacy.
A Delta spokesman told The Washington Post that the complaint did not reflect Delta's "standard operating procedure or the very high regard we hold for our nation's service members. We are sorry for the difficulties that transpired and are investigating this event to determine the appropriate next steps."