Alaska Airlines has been asked to pay around USD 3.2 million to the family of a woman who died four months after falling down an escalator. The incident took place in 2017 following which the family of the 75-year-old woman had sued the airlines. The family alleged that the airlines failed to provide the gate-to-gate escort service they had requested multiple times. The trial was undergoing in King County Superior Court. A jury found the airlines violating the Air Carrier Access Act. The Act makes it mandatory for airlines to provide certain assistance to passengers with disabilities. This includes boarding and deplaning.
Bernice Kekona went to Portland International Airport while on her way back home to Spokane. She had gone to Maui to visit a family. According to a filing by family, Kekona and her family had made multiple requests for gate-to-gate escort. The family said that they made multiple requests because Kekona was elderly, disabled, and at times confused in unfamiliar places. The family alleged in the court that the airlines failed to communicate those requests because of which she was not provided the escort. Attorney for the family, Robert Gellatly, said that the death was the result of a tragic failure of communication.’
Reacting to the ruling, Alaska Airlines said that they are disappointed by the judgment and evaluating further steps. “Safety and wellbeing of guests are our top priority, whether a vendor is responsible for it or we are taking care,” the airlines said. In a court filing in 2019, the airlines had said that Kekona refused multiple offers of additional assistance. Kekona had suffered multiple injuries after the fall. She suffered Achilles tendon injuries that led to an infection. Doctors had to amputate her leg but she died soon after that from infection. The family said that Kekona had earlier received gate-to-gate help traveled without any problem. Alaska has yet not responded on whether they have implemented any policy changes after that incident.