On Memorial Day, decorated Afghanistan veteran, Adam Popp was told to leave his exit row seat on an Alaska Airlines flight because he had prosthetic leg. Popp said the flight attendant even threatened to have security remove him from the plane if he did not give up his seat. As reported by WJLA ABC 7, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations dated January 2014 state, "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." Popp has had his prosthetic leg since 2007, when he was hit by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. He believes that he possesses all the physical requirements to perform the necessary exit row duties and was actually returning home after completing a 94-mile adventure race with other wounded veterans.
Popp was wearing shorts that day, which made his prosthetic leg clearly visible. Coincidentally, on the first leg of Popp’s trip from Bellingham, Washington to Seattle he flew Alaska Airlines and sat in the exit row without incident. The flight from Seattle to Regan National Airport was quite a different experience. "He said, 'No, you aren't going to sit there,'" Popp recounted. "I asked what the problem was, he said, 'You are wearing a prosthetic, you can't sit in the exit row.'" After the flight attendant checked the company’s flight attendant manual he returned, insisting that Popp change seats.
Popp said, “That flight attendant was stuck on that one piece of gear. That’s the only thing he saw…He didn’t see me as a person. He didn’t see me as [having] the ability to do the things they require. He saw that one thing and said, 'Nope you aren’t sitting here.’ It was his way or I was off the plane.” The Disabled American Veterans association also voiced their disappointment over the incident and said that passengers with prosthetics, “…must be assessed in a nondiscriminatory manner when determining seat selection.”
Alaska Airlines issued an apology to Popp on Friday citing confusion over the FAA regulations. In the statement a company representative said, "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." Spokesperson Paul McElroy said, “Mr. Popp was permitted to sit in an exit row on his flight from Bellingham to Seattle because our sister carrier, Horizon Air, receives instructions from a different FAA office, which has a conflicting interpretation of the exit-row regulation.” McElroy emphasized that this incident has brought attention to the problem and Alaska is working on resolving it.
The airline will send Popp a letter explaining why he was reseated along with a $200 flight coupon.
Video and more info: WJLA