A diamond medallion Delta passenger had a “dehumanising” experience when forced to either sit in faeces or miss his flight.
Matthew Meehan was on the last flight from Atlanta to Miami on Nov. 1, when he realized the plane hadn’t been cleaned properly. But what he thought would be just another stinky flight turned out to be much worse.
“I sit in my seat and I immediately smell something, and I thought, ‘Not another flight that smells bad,’” Meehan tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
And he wasn’t the only one who noticed. “I realized the person next to me also had their nose covered,” he says.
“And then I went to take my charger out, bent down completely to charge my phone and realized it’s not just a smell, it’s actually faeces and it’s all over the back of my legs, it’s all over the floor, all over the wall of the plane. And I sat in it,” he recalls.
Faeces was not cleaned up
Even though the cleaning staff had been notified by the flight crew, they did not clean up the excrement.
Meehan knows for a fact that Delta planes are required to have a biohazard kit onboard for situations like this.
“The Delta representative that spoke with me after the fact told me their protocol is to have a biohazard kit onboard,” he says. “The fact that they either didn’t take it down and offer me something from it to clean myself properly or it was absent completely from the plane broke protocol either way.”
Instead of calling the gate and asking for sanitizing products, Meehan alleges the flight attendant gave him two paper towels and a bottle of gin to clean himself with in the lavatory.
At this point, Meehan wasn’t sure where the diarrhea had come from — dog or human; he just wanted it off him.
So, Meehan took the meager cleaning materials into the bathroom hoping that when he came out, his seat would be cleaned.
“It got all over my bare ankles,” he says. “They didn’t give me gloves. I had to take my pants off because it’s on the back of my pants, so faeces, at this point, is transferring to my hands, with no kind of sanitizing solution to be able to clean anything with, and only one tiny bottle of gin.”
When he exited from the bathroom, to his surprise, they were still boarding as if there weren’t excrement coating parts of the plane.
Airline broke protocol
By continuing to board the plane the airline “broke protocol”, according to a Delta representative who spoke to Meehan.
“Once a passenger brings a contagion or biohazard to staff’s attention, you’re supposed to stop boarding entirely,” Meehan says he was told. “And you’re supposed to deboard if possible so that the contagion or biohazard can be properly cleaned without spreading or contaminating others.”
Yahoo Lifestyle asked Delta about its specific protocol for dealing with contagions but has not yet received a response with that information.
Minimal help from staff
Meehan was eventually told by flight crew to flag the issue with gate staff as they were “in the middle of an active boarding”.
But the gate agent and manager weren’t much help at all allegedly telling him, “Sir, it’s almost time for that plane to leave. You can sit in your seat or you can be left behind.”
Meehan and the manager realized he wasn’t the only passenger upset about this, so in an attempt to avoid causing a commotion, the manager had someone clean that area with paper towels.
“To my knowledge, they did not use any kind of sanitizing solution, and I was supposed to be OK with that because she quote unquote, cleaned it,” Meehan says.
Meehan tried one more time to ask for the area to be sanitized, but he got the same answer: “She said, ‘We are pushing this plane back, you can either sit in your seat or you can stay behind.’”
Meehan had to be somewhere the next morning and this was the only flight that could get him there in time. So he had no choice but to “fester in faeces for two hours.”
There was no option of moving seats either, as the flight was oversold.
Response to incident
In a statement to Yahoo Lifestyle in response to the incident, Delta said:
“On Nov. 1, an aircraft operating flight 1949 from Atlanta to Miami was boarded before cleaning was completed following an incident from a previous flight with an ill service animal. Delta apologizes to customers impacted by the incident and has reached out to make it right, offering a refund and additional compensation. The safety and health of our customers and employees is our top priority, and we are conducting a full investigation while following up with the right teams to prevent this from happening again.”
Delta also stated that the aircraft was taken out of service to be “deep cleaned and disinfected” upon landing in Miami.
The airline offered Meehan 50,000 miles in compensation, but he was not impressed pointing out “that’s what people get for signing up for a credit card”.
Meehan is considering legal action over the ordeal.
“I am waiting for Delta to give me the answers I’ve asked for and to make things right,” he says. “If they don’t, I will absolutely take action.”
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