The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit Monday against Air America, claiming that the airline violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it refused to allow an airport employee to take a wheelchair.
The lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of the ACLU of Southern California, is the first time the ACLU has successfully challenged the airline’s policy of excluding disabled passengers from its flights.
Air America refused to provide the wheelchair passenger with a seat because of her disability.
The wheelchair passenger, named in the lawsuit as Lisa Marie, was born with Down syndrome, and her wheelchair was removed after her first flight.
The ADA prohibits discrimination based on disability.
Lisa Marie had to leave her seat for a second time after she and another wheelchair passenger were denied boarding.
The ACLU claims that Lisa Marie was denied her ADA ticket because of Air America’s policy.
The airline also allegedly did not provide Lisa Marie with a copy of her claim against Air Asia.
Lisa Marie’s story echoes a similar one that the ACLU filed in November against Air China, alleging that the Chinese carrier had refused to let a wheelchair passenger into its aircraft for the same reason that Air America did.
Air China claimed that the disabled passenger was being refused access to a flight because of a legal requirement.
Lisa Mary Marie has a history of being denied boarding on Air Asia flights.
In January 2016, she sued Air Asia, alleging a discrimination policy barring disabled passengers.
Air Asia denies that its policy was discriminatory and said it had the right to deny boarding to anyone who wanted it, even if that passenger has a disability.
“We believe that the ADA prohibits Air Asia from discriminating based on a person’s disability,” Air Asia spokesperson Jennifer Kocher told the Associated Press at the time.
“We believe Air Asia has the right under the ADA to deny people access to their flight, but we are also clear that that doesn’t mean we have the right not to allow them on the flight.”
Lisa Marie was one of thousands of people who have had to file lawsuits to get their First Amendment rights protected.
The American Bar Association (ABA) and the American Civil Rights Union (ACA) have both sued airlines for violating the ADA, which prohibits discrimination against the disabled.
The lawsuit alleges that Air Asia violated the ADA by denying Lisa Marie a wheelchair and allowing her to leave with her seat in order to board a flight.
“The American Civil Liberties Union filed the complaint today in Los Angeles County Superior Court on behalf [of] Lisa Marie and her legal team, who are challenging Air Asia’s refusal to accommodate Lisa Marie,” said Lauren K. Miller, senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s Disability Rights Project.