Home > Article from newspaper > Trip To Florida Turns Into Nightmare For Deaf Passenger Who Can’t Speak

Trip To Florida Turns Into Nightmare For Deaf Passenger Who Can’t Speak

February 25, 2007

Web-posted Feb 25, 2007

By JERRY WOLFFE
Of The Oakland Press

John Karolski can’t hear or speak. He relied on a customer service representative from Spirit Airlines to make sure he got on the right flight at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. But Karolski wound up 225 miles from his destination. It cost him hundreds of dollars in cab fees to get to Orlando, Fla., his original destination, from where he landed in Fort Lauderdale.

Spirit eventually reimbursed him for the $634.70 in cab fare and tolls from Fort Lauderdale to Orlando, and refunded his $181.10 round-trip air fare, but John and his wife, Kathy, were upset his pleas for help fell on deaf ears.The Livonia man was supposed to have been on Spirit flight NK801 scheduled to arrive at 10:40 a.m. in Orlando – where his brother Richard, 58, was waiting. He instead wound up on a flight to Fort Lauderdale.

Karolski arrived at the Orlando airport around 7 p.m. and eventually met his brother after a Yellow Cab driver called and told Richard of his brother’s ordeal.

Kathy Karolski said she took her husband to the airport around 5:45 a.m. Dec. 23 for the 8 a.m. departure to Orlando.

“There was no information on the monitors as to what gate was the one John was to go to for his flight,” she said.

“I asked a supervisor at Spirit’s ticket counter, ‘How do we know where to go because the monitors are not showing gate departures?’ ” said Karolski.

“The supervisor wrote C8 on the upper right-hand corner of our boarding pass,” she said.

“I asked if I could escort my husband to the gate because I used to work at British Airlines at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, but they said no,” Karolski said.

She said she told a Spirit supervisor her husband was deaf and nonverbal, but was again told, “You can’t go.”

“So, I kissed him goodbye and off he went, looking for Gate C8”.

When her husband got to the gate, said Karolski, the same supervisor was working the counter.

There were two Spirit flights at the gate – one going to Orlando with an 8 a.m. departure and the other to Fort Lauderdale with a 7 a.m. departure, Karolski said.

He showed the boarding pass again to the supervisor, and she told him to “follow me” and “he was the first person on the aircraft,” she said.

While the first part of the flight went well, John Karolski knew something was wrong when he looked out the window and saw a big bay of water, Kathy said.

“In Orlando, you’re not landing near any water,” she said.

John got off the aircraft, knowing something was wrong, she said.

He wrote on a piece of paper, “I am deaf. Please call my brother,” and showed it to a Spirit Airline service representative, Kathy said her husband told her.

The Spirit representative refused and pointed to a telecommunication device for the deaf (TDD).

But that wouldn’t have allowed John to call his brother because a caller must have a TDD machine to receive a call from someone using the device.

“He needed a Spirit representative to talk to his brother, who already was at the other airport,” Kathy said.

Three other agents refused to make the call for John, Kathy said.

“He asked for help from four Spirit agents and received none,” she said. “He stood in the middle of the airport for a half-hour and no one offered to help, despite his efforts to communicate his plight.

“He finally gave up and went and got a cab.”

Spirit Airlines apologized to the Karolskis in a Jan. 23 letter.

“I want to begin by assuring you that we are committed to assisting our traveling public who require special help,” said Karianne Silva of Spirit Airlines’ Corporate Consumer Affairs.

John was given a first-class seat on his Dec. 28 return flight to Detroit, in addition to Spirit reimbursing him for his cab fare and original ticket.

“I apologize that your husband did not receive this assistance,” added Silva.

“In addition, our customer service agents at the counter did not see him,” Silva added. “I apologize that we were unable to locate your husband and put him on the next flight to Orlando.”

Natasha Babulal, senior manager of marketing at Spirit, said: “Spirit Airlines is committed to providing assistance to our customers who require special help.”

Spirit told the Karolskis that if they felt the situation was not resolved satisfactorily, they could call the federal Department of Transportation and file a complaint.

“I mean we have been reimbursed for the cab fare and airline ticket, but we have not been reimbursed for the emotional distress that my husband was put through,” said Kathy Karolski.

John can’t get any punitive damages, said attorney Richard Bernstein of Farmington Hills.

“The only type of damages he can get would be compensatory damages.

“We simply want Detroit Metropolitan Airport to adhere to an Oct. 9, 2006 agreement in which the airport authority vowed to help special needs passengers, including the disabled, children and seniors, so they make it to their destinations in a safe and appropriate manner,” Bernstein said.

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  1. S. Levy
    February 25, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    This is typical of today’s caliber of airline worker. They are ill trained to care for the public. You do not have to be impaired in any way to suffer at their incompetent hands – I am not only talking about Spirit but include the majority of poorly educated (probably poorly paid) airline front line workers. I have had many emotional distresses caused by them (specifically Delta employees) so that as a result I now take Amtrak at every opportunity.

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