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 man miss a flight because 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 Parkinson's disease.
KTVZ reports Clark's story spread quickly and sparked a series of angry Facebook posts directed at the airline.
Alaska Airlines spokesman Paul McElroy told The Associated Press on Saturday that the man never told airline employees that he had Parkinson's or any other disability, and officials believed he was intoxicated because they smelled alcohol. He says the man's ticket was refunded and he boarded a new flight Saturday morning.
Glenn Johnson, the president of Horizon Air -- which operates flights for Alaska -- apologized to the man both on Facebook and in a statement Monday, as Alaska Airlines refunded his ticket and provided two complimentary round-trip tickets for both him and his daughter.
"First and foremost, we've determined that we could and should have handled this better and I apologize to our passenger on behalf of all of us at Horizon Air and Alaska Airlines," Johnson wrote in his Facebook post. "This experience has reminded us of the importance of assisting passengers with disabilities and making sure every one of them receives the special care they may need. The information we've gathered during our review will certainly improve our efforts going forward."
Open Doors Organization, an independent disability advocacy group, was asked to jointly review employees' handling of the situation with Alaska and Horizon. It will also suggest improvements in the airlines' disability, awareness and sensitivity training.
The group encourages passengers with disabilities to tell airlines about any assistance they might need before arriving at the airport, and arrive at least 90 minutes early to allow accommodations to be made. Many airlines will also issue passes upon request for personal assistants to assist passengers to or from their gate areas.