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Blind woman removed from Springfield flight

Laurie Reeves Goss was removed from an Allegiant flight, and she thought it must have been a misunderstanding relating to her disability. The airline has a very different explanation.

October 01, 2012|by Linda Russell, lrussell@ky3.com

SPRINGFIELD, Mo.-- A West Plains woman says she was wrongly and rudely de-planed from a flight departing from Springfield.  Laurie Reeves Goss is still shocked she was removed by Allegiant.  She thought it was a misunderstanding about her disability, but an Allegiant report gives a completely different reason.

She was California bound for her daughter's birthday. "And see my grandchildren, which I hadn't got to see in two years it took me to save up for this trip," Laurie says. 

But Laurie can't actually "see" her grandchildren.   "They said, when people are talking to you, look toward their voice," Laurie says.  It's how she was trained after going blind. 

Using her cane, just as she has for more than 15 years, and boarding the Allegiant flight to Los Angeles, Laurie asked a flight attendant to guide her to the restroom.  "She said, you need to put that away!  And I said, I will after I am seated, but I'm going to the bathroom and I've got to get back to my seat," Laurie says.

Laurie says she also questioned a flight attendant about her window seat, and then asked a fellow passenger if she'd like to trade.  "I said, I'm impaired visually, and it's a waste of a view," says Laurie.

Laurie says they traded seats and settled in, and that's when a crew member approached. "Miss Reeves, do you have your cane?  And I said, yes, I do.  It's right here in my sheath.  And he says, can you unbuckle your seat belt and come with me?" Laurie says.

To her surprise, Laurie says she was led off the plane and placed in a wheel chair.  Laurie says she was told the crew felt she was a threat to others, but she wasn't told why.

"I was in shock.  I was scared, and I was devastated.  I didn't want to be in a wheel chair, because it was demeaning to me to begin with," says Laurie.

Laurie says she was pushed outside to wait two hours for her ride back home. Allegiant filed a report about the incident.

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Jessica Wheeler, an Allegiant spokesperson, says "The passenger was being disruptive to the other passengers around her, and unfortunately, I do not have specific details about exactly what disruptive means."

"I didn't understand what the heck I done wrong.  I never raised my voice.  I never cursed," Laurie says.

"When flight attendants tried to address her, she appeared extremely intoxicated and smelled of alcohol.  She was combative to the flight attendants, and it was at that point that the flight attendants made the judgement call to remove her from the flight," Wheeler says.

Laurie says she bought two drinks at the airport bar during her two hour wait, but claims she was never combative or drunk.  "I'm imbalanced, because I have one eye worse than the other.  I did not feel intoxicated at all," says Laurie.

"Obviously, this is a judgement call.  Our in flight crew is trained to make these calls," says Wheeler.

Though she's flown blind for years, being kicked off the plane has left Laurie shocked and feeling mistreated.  "I'm scared to get on a plane again by myself," Laurie says.

Allegiant says their flight crews make decisions as a team, and passenger and crew safety are their biggest concerns.  The airline has refunded Laurie's money, but she says that's not enough for what she was put through.

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