Stearn Hodge has been fighting for years, but it looks like he may finally get his day in court.
Back in 2017, he planned an anniversary trip with his wife from their home in Canada to Tulsa, Oklahoma. According to Mr. Hodge, that trip was ruined by United Airlines.
Mr. Hodge is a double amputee. After a work accident back in the 80's he lost one arm and one leg.
Doctors do not suggest he wear prosthetic devices because he has a high risk of infection. Mr. Hodge has used a mobility scooter to get around since. That scooter is powered by a lithium-ion battery.
Here is Mr. Hodges, his wife and the scooter.
CBC News / YouTube
Normally, these batteries are not allowed on airplanes because they pose a slight fire risk, but most airlines make exceptions for people with disabilities or illnesses as long as they get prior approval.
Knowing this, Mr. Hodges got that approval before his three-week anniversary trip to another country.
He brought along all required documentation of his condition and his prior approval, as well as a print-out of the airlines rules. Still, when he arrived for his flight nobody would listen to him or read any of the documents he brought along.
The Canadian Air Transit Security Authority (CATSA) agent confiscated his battery as well as his back-up battery, which both cost approximately $2,000 each.
Mr. Hodge even asked for an agent from United Airlines to confirm with travel security that he had, indeed, gotten the prior approval required.
The agent confirmed, but still sided with security and refused to allow the batteries aboard the flight:
"I still remember the CATSA agent saying, 'Well, you could get a wheelchair.' How's a one-armed guy going to run a wheelchair? How am I going to go down a ramp and brake with one hand? But that shouldn't even have to come up."
Because of the nature of his amputations, Mr. Hodges cannot operate a standard wheelchair. He also cannot "scoot" on his bottom the way some double amputees can.
Without his scooter, he has to crawl face-down on his belly on the floor. It's not only humiliating, it's dirty and potentially dangerous.
Mr. Hodges demonstrated for CBC news.
CBC News / YouTube
Since the airline confiscated both of his batteries, he was forced to not only crawl through the flight, but spend much of his three-week anniversary trip confined to a bed, unable to do the activities he had planned with his wife.
"An anniversary is supposed to be all about remembering how you fell in love ... and keeping that magic alive, and those things were denied. I'm crawling across the floor and it is pathetic."
The airline issued an apology and offered him travel credits, but since then he tried to use them and was stopped with the same issue more than a dozen times. Now, he wants to take his complaints before The Canadian Human Rights Commission.
Mr. Hodges isn't here asking for new laws or regulations to be put in place; he is fighting to force airlines to comply with the regulations that already exist. Currently, none of the airlines that have blocked him from flying with his approved medical device have seen any sort of punitive action.
Check out this interview:
Amputee calls for human rights action after scooter battery seized | CBC Go Public www.youtube.com
As news of his fight made rounds online, people have responded with nothing short of outrage.
@cbcnewsbc This is horribly inexcusable! I pray that he gets everything he’s seeking and THEN some in order to send… https://t.co/uJWm2bPOV8— Leslie (@Leslie)1556754926.0
United Airlines needs to just settle this and give them miles to travel anywhere they want for the rest of their li… https://t.co/pQmr3RZzSL— ダリル・ワートン-リグビー Darryl Wharton-Rigby (@ダリル・ワートン-リグビー Darryl Wharton-Rigby)1556802430.0
United Airlines should consider a new slogan: "we make disabled people crawl through our terminals like animals in… https://t.co/RMRsKVWsUs— KPRC AM 950 (@KPRC AM 950)1556535369.0
@USATODAY What happened to battery boxes, @united? How could you? #ADA— Susan Ball (@Susan Ball)1556748668.0
Hope he wins his case. I've been told I can't take my mobility devices to the gate & not had it on arrival, often h… https://t.co/u5SsCjChKN— twoemu (@twoemu)1556533394.0
It's becoming clear that we need to demand more legal protections to counter the MANY instances of airports and air… https://t.co/8D6jRyb4td— Crystal (@Crystal)1556536764.0
It is absolutely disgusting that any individual or company would treat people with a disability in a manner that di… https://t.co/h1UwtlXBXe— Mind over Matter (@Mind over Matter)1556502089.0
Shamefully, this isn't the first instance of United Airlines treating disabled passengers as less-than.
A quick Twitter search turned up some horrific posts.
United airlines rep just told my amputee wife: maybe cripples shouldn't fly. You just lost a customer for life.— tweaver (@tweaver)1280958834.0
It's great. United airlines broke and lost parts for a mobility scooter that cost $2799 to replace. It was for an amputee veteran— Emerson A (@Emerson A)1484205007.0
United Airlines staff broke my roommate wheelchair we seen the guy threw the airplane window.He has been calling Un… https://t.co/rBlw79ciJQ— Mirandaspetsitting (@Mirandaspetsitting)1532399920.0
@n1ghtwatchman49 #United_Airlines has always treated #Disabled w/disrespect. I was in 1st class & a male attendant… https://t.co/phOQgHNBLn— Mme Duplechin (@Mme Duplechin)1556760236.0
#Disabled 94 year old grandma, ‘forced out of business class seat’ on United Airlines https://t.co/ie1EK1Npqx https://t.co/MQzQvmpBuu— justice4daniel (@justice4daniel)1492102792.0
@Gawker those dicks offered him $300? Try starting at $300,000 & 300 free flights & go up from there.— Sláinte 🍻🥂 (@Sláinte 🍻🥂)1445998742.0
United Airlines fined $2.75 million over treatment of disabled fliers and tarmac delays https://t.co/kZrXQmk029 https://t.co/VdTQ2hZ5rq— Los Angeles Times (@Los Angeles Times)1452240918.0