A deaf couple who just wanted to be seated together, instead found themselves kicked off a Delta Airlines flight by one of its gate agents. The couple from California are also activists for hard of hearing people and are the co-founders of Alma de Muxeristas, a group of Hispanic feminist activists with hard of hearing issues.
Though Delta Airlines said there were conflicting views on the debacle, the couple, Melissa Elmira Yingst (40) and Socorro Garcia (34) claimed the Delta Airlines agent who engaged them refused to communicate with them in writing, and even threw away the paper the couple were writing on to get their point across, whilst simultaneously rolling her eyes at the couple.
Garcia went to retrieve the note from the trash can, which led to the police being called. Following the arrival of the police, the couple was asked to leave the airport and had to book new flights to Los Angeles the next day. They had to stay back at an airport hotel in Detroit, where they took to social media for support.
Full video here with our experience of getting kicked off @Delta flight due to communication barriers - https://t.co/jU0WdLued2— melissa elmira yingst (@melmira) January 28, 2019
The couple just wanted to have a change of seats so they could sit together but said the agent discriminated against them because she failed to follow protocol and ask one of the basic questions, whether there were any volunteers to switch seats with the couple.
“This really isn’t about us not being able to sit together but how they handled communication and refused to provide us access to the needs we asked for,” Yingst said in sign language, according to a transcript of her remarks posted on Facebook.
Delta Airlines spokesperson Michael Thomas made a statement saying the agent discarded the paper because she thought the conversation was over. The agent felt threatened because Garcia allegedly knocked into the agent’s leg when the former went behind the ticket counter, which isn’t permitted, said Thomas.
The incident enraged supporters, with one person commenting "congratulations, you lose me as your customer. I mark my words that I won’t use any of your services UNTIL you FIX this situation and re-train your staff. Shame on you."
The incident drew the attention of The National LGBTQ Task Force and Alex Morash, the media director for the advocacy non-profit, in an email to the Free Press, asked: "The two individuals are deaf and tried to communicate with the Delta staffer by writing notes back and forth. When she threw these individuals' means of communication away, how were they suppose to figure out what was going on?" The couple were in Detroit for the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Creating Change conference.
The couple are considering bringing a lawsuit against Delta Airlines, if their requests are not met. While Delta Airlines said they have already begun processing the refund for the couples missed flight, the airline said it would also consider the couple's requests and may reimburse their hotel and alternative flights after further analysis of the situation.