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Southwest Airlines Facing Lawsuit After Refusing to Help Disabled Passenger

Southwest Airlines Facing Lawsuit After Refusing to Help Disabled Passenger
Jennifer Billock

Southwest Airlines is facing a lawsuit after a woman in a wheelchair alleged employees refused to help her use the restroom, causing her to wet herself and suffer severe emotional and physical distress; she was flying from Portland International Airport to St. Louis, Missouri when the incident occurred.

Katherine E. Muenchow, 56, recently flew from Portland, Oregon, to St. Louis, Missouri, with Southwest Airlines—and is suing the company as a result. Muenchow uses a wheelchair and encountered nothing but problems with the flight, to the point where she was forced to wet her pants because the crew would not help her.

The problem started when she arrived at the airport and ordered a wheelchair, but the airport told her she needed to use her own. Then, as an attendant was wheeling her to the gate, she asked to stop and get some food—but the attendant refused, saying a Southwest attendant would take her. That person didn’t appear for an hour. Then Muenchow asked to be taken to a restroom. The attendant suggested the nearest women’s room, but it wasn’t able to fit the wheelchair, so Muenchow asked for a family restroom. The attendant said it was too far and she’d have to wait to use the restroom on the plane.

But the flight attendants on the plane wouldn’t help her either, first saying she couldn’t get up while the plane was boarding and next citing turbulence. Muenchow begged for assistance in tears. Eventually, she was forced to wet herself. She was finally taken to the restroom—too late—once the plane landed. But the door wouldn’t close all the way and she was forced to use the facilities in view of every passenger deplaning.

“Traveling is a time of great vulnerability for a disabled person who must rely on the assistance and accommodation of others,’’ the suit says, reported by Oregon Live. “The flight attendants’ conduct toward the plaintiff was outrageous and done with an intent to cause plaintiff severe emotional distress.’’


[Image Source: Shutterstock]

View Comments (6)


  1. Oxnardjan

    June 3, 2019 at 6:12 pm

    If you can’t accommodate and manage your own personal needs without minimal assist then you should have someone flying with you. Planes are no more than air buses now, you wouldn’t expect extended help on a Greyhound bus. Airlines do provide with advance request assistance to the gates but expecting someone to wait for meal purchase or toileting assistance is going beyond what an airline should provide. This passenger needs a fit to fly certificate if they cannot propel themselves a reasonable distance and toilet themselves with minimal assistance…ie getting on and off the toilet independently.

  2. ctm78

    June 3, 2019 at 6:33 pm

    Perhaps I’m callus and underinformed; but under ADA are private entities required to not only provide reasonable access (which I agree with) but now also must provide the support care for disabilities?

  3. mrlasssen

    June 3, 2019 at 7:39 pm

    Who is responsible for the wheel chair attendants, I don’t remember seeing any with airline uniforms on, but rather a contractors shirt. Do they work for the airport and tips?

  4. jonsail

    June 4, 2019 at 9:51 am

    Let’s hear from some lawyers. If a pax is physically unable to fly w/o assistance, is the airline liable if it doesn’t provide every assistance? What assistance is it reasonable under the law for an airline to have to provide and what assistance is unreasonable for the airline to provide under law requiring accommodation of people with handicaps?

  5. robsaw

    June 4, 2019 at 10:37 am

    Opinion on what or what should not be expected is irrelevant. What is relevant is the law and contractually required levels of assistance required by the airport and airline. My understanding is that assistance to/from gate and aircraft and presumably to/from toilet facilities is required. Assistance with personal hygiene is not something required; if a person’s disability requires that, then they need to have a personal assistant.

  6. secondsoprano

    June 5, 2019 at 11:01 pm

    Ugh , you people! Do you have no compassion or common decency? Really depressing how horrible all these comments are.

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