Adam Popp, a decorated 12-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force was flying from Seattle Tacoma International Airport to Regan National Airport on Alaska Airlines Flight 4 when a flight attendant told him that he could not sit in his exit row seat because of his prosthetic leg.
Popp lost his right leg from an improvised explosive device (IED) during his 2007 military tour in Afghanistan. Popp medically retired from the U.S. Air Force in 2009 and now serves as a director of the EOD Warrior Foundation in Arlington and is a senior analyst and partner at Shoulder 2 Shoulder.
Alaska Airlines Flight 4 was a connection flight from Bellingham International Airport where Popp had sat in an exit row. The Bellingham flight was on Alaska Airline’s partner, Horizon Air.
Popp stated he was wearing shorts on the flight and the flight attendant could see his prosthetic leg. And that’s when the trouble began.
“He said, ‘No, you aren’t going to sit there.’” When Popp inquired why, he was told by the flight attendant, ‘You are wearing a prosthetic, you can’t sit in the exit row.’”
Referring to a policy in the Alaska Airlines’ flight attendant manual, the flight attendant reiterated that Popp would need to vacate his exit row. The flight attendant threatened to call security and have Popp removed from the plane if he remained in his exit row seat.
Federal Aviation Administration regulations 3-3572, Section C 3b state, however, that when flight attendants must assess a passenger’s ability to perform exit-row duties “in a nondiscriminatory manner.” And that “the presence of the prosthesis would not be the determinant for being able to meet the criteria, but rather the physical ability to perform the exit seat duties.”
Paul McElroy, a spokesperson for Alaska Airlines issued the following statement:
“Alaska has received conflicting guidance from the FAA on emergency exit row seating regulations. We’re working with the FAA to clarify which policy we must follow.”
Alaska Airlines has since issued a statement apologizing for the incident, thanking Popp for his service and sacrifice and offered him a $200 flight coupon.
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