John Morris, Quadriplegic Colorado State University Student, Forced Off Of Frontier Airlines Flight By Pilot (UPDATE)

06/20/2011 03:10 pm ET | Updated Aug 20, 2011

FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- A quadriplegic Colorado man says he was humiliated after he was forced off a Frontier Airlines plane because a pilot said it wasn't safe for him to fly.

John Morris and his family were trying to board a flight in Dallas on Sunday to return home to Fort Collins.


DENVER (Reuters) - Regional carrier Frontier Airlines apologized on Monday after one of its pilots refused to allow a quadriplegic passenger to fly on a Dallas to Denver flight over the weekend because of safety concerns.

John Morris, a 24-year-old college student from Fort Collins, Colorado, was removed from the jet after the pilot determined that a seat belt extension, normally used for large passengers, was inadequate to restrain Morris.

"We're sorry for the incident and are investigating its handling," the airline said in a statement.

"In this situation we had a well-intentioned pilot who was seeking to do the right thing to ensure the safety and compliance of all involved."

Morris could not be reached for comment, but told Denver's ABC-TV affiliate that he felt humiliated.

He was accompanied on the flight by his mother, Kathleen, who told the television station the pilot never left the cockpit to assess the situation.

"He (the pilot) was not willing to come back and talk to John," she said.

Morris, who was left a quadriplegic by a snowboarding accident five years ago, returned to Colorado on Sunday aboard a later Frontier flight.

Mike Fergus, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said in general individual pilots can exercise wide discretion on safety issues.

"The basic rule is that the pilot has complete authority over all aspects of the aircraft,' he said.

Frontier said it is investigating the incident.

"We will be taking the steps necessary to ensure clarity on the policies so that the situation is not repeated," the airline said. "Once the investigation is concluded, we will be sharing the outcome with the family involved."

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Greg McCune)

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The 24-year-old Colorado State University student says he has flown Frontier in the past, using an airline seat-belt extension to secure his chest and legs to the seat. But this time the pilot refused to take off.

Frontier spokesman Peter Kowalchuk told KMGH-TV the pilot was concerned for Morris' safety and uncertain whether the seat-belt extension could be used to restrain his legs and torso.

Kowalchuk says federal rules are unclear on whether the extension can be used to restrain disabled passengers.

Frontier eventually arranged for Morris and his family to take the next flight, and the pilot on that plane had no issues with transporting him.

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