Mr. Bradley Holmes a passenger on ATA Airlines Flight #307 on Wednesday, March 8, 2000. was asked to forfeit his place, having already been a passenger in the flight, which had made a stop in Chicago on its way to Los Angeles from New York. With no reasons given, Mr. Holmes was embarrassed and harassed in the presence of fellow business associates. Mr. Holmes offered no resistance except imploring airline personnel for a simple explanation. Mr. Holmes was ushered out of the airplane by six (6) police officers, and treated no better than a common street-thug.
My client Mr. Holmes purchased a ticket on ATA airline to fly from New York JFK to Los Angeles on flight 307. The flight was scheduled to make one stop at Chicago Midway but no change of planes was scheduled. Mr. Holmes boarded that flight and traveled to Chicago. Mr. Holmes was waiting to continue onto Los Angeles when another passenger flying only from Chicago to Los Angeles boarded the plane and was assigned the same seat as Mr. Holmes. The flight attendant then informed them that there was a "duplicate seating" error and would try to fix it. He later returned and told Mr. Holmes someone had made a mistake and that he would have to give up his seat to the new passenger and work something out with the gate attendant.
Mr. Holmes explained he was not willing to accept a flight voucher in exchange for giving up his seat; he had a pivotal business meeting with relation to the same trip that took him to New York in the first place. The flight attendant then explained that Mr. Holmes had no choice but to give up the seat to the new passenger. Mr. Holmes refused and again explained to the attendant that he was booked through to Los Angeles and needed to continue. He also showed the flight attendant his ticket and it's receipt that proved this. At this time, six other passengers in the immediate area, faced with similar situations but who were allowed to continue, began to pay attention and support Mr. Holmes' position.
Mr. Holmes again explained to the flight attendant that he needed to be at work for an important event at 9am the next day and couldn't afford to stay in Chicago for the night. The flight attendant then volunteered information to Mr. Holmes and the six passengers seated around Mr. Holmes that an earlier flight from Chicago Midway was canceled because it wasn't full enough and they were combining it with Mr. Holmes' flight in ATA's effort to be more efficient and profitable. He explained that there were not enough seats to accommodate everyone from both flights. He explained that the new passenger had been given Mr. Holmes seat and Mr. Holmes did not have a choice in the matter.
Mr. Holmes then called me from his seat (29D) on his mobile phone. I advised Mr. Holmes to inform the flight attendant of the legal ramifications and also advised Mr. Holmes to tape record this conversation and any further conversations. Mr. Holmes then turned on his Dictaphone tape recorder, informing the flight attendant and the six passengers around them that he was recording this in case he needed to use it for any reason.
No equipment failure occurred to prevent ATA's ability to fulfil its' duty. Mr. Holmes had not done anything to warrant ATA to require non-fulfillment of their obligation; the only problem being an error on ATA's behalf. ATA had no right to give his seat to someone else. It was ATA's responsibility to provide the new passenger with the alternative compensation and not Mr. Holmes. At this point Mr. Holmes and several other passengers suggested they offer the deplaning incentives to other passengers on the flight. The supervisor, a Ms. Lolita Barber refused, and then in a rude manner, boarded the plane and threatened to have Mr. Holmes "dragged" off the plane.
Mr. Holmes then explained to Ms. Barber that he would be embarrassed if she did so and he would consider that action harassment and that, he would consider the act harmful to his reputation and extremely embarrassing. Mr. Holmes also provided this information, which was recorded, to the ATA flight attendants, Ms. Barber, and the other ATA passenger/ witnesses. Ms. Barber then proceeded to call the Chicago Airport police in order to remove Mr. Holmes from the plane in an incident that was disturbing and degrading to my client. It may be important for you to know that Mr. Holmes was not abusive, rude, nor did he in any way raise his voice or use profanity at any time during this entire ordeal (all of this is of course documented in the tape recording).
Mr. Holmes calmly stated his rights and that he refused ATA's offer of incentive to give up his seat. Yet, Ms. Barber had the six police officers board the plane to remove Mr. Holmes. Mr. Holmes did not argue with the officers. It is coincidental that Mr. Holmes' uncle is the well-known Chicago suburb Police Chief David Kelly. Mr. Holmes proceeded to inform the officers of this relationship, presented them his own ID, his uncle's business card and explained to them the situation. At this time, eight (8) passengers seated around the incident including the gentleman who was also given the "dupe" seat corroborated Mr. Holmes story and passed their business cards to Mr. Holmes with unsolicited offers to give statements on Mr. Holmes behalf. One passenger even wrote a letter for the group. Three (3) of these passengers requested to be included in any class action law suit if it was possible, having seen this same situation in the past on ATA airline, and having it now happen to them.
Two of the officers then asked the flight attendants if anything could be done to fix this situation. When Ms. Barber refused, Mr. Holmes deplaned with the officers and filed an official complaint with the airport police taken by officer Pinzine (badge number 9196. March 8, 2000. 09:25pm. ATA Gate C5). After filing the report, Mr. Holmes requested to be put on another airline to continue on to LA that evening. Ms. Barber refused and told Mr. Holmes that he would have to settle for flight #301 leaving at 8:35am the next day. Mr. Holmes requested to speak to her supervisor. She refused to call them. Mr. Holmes requested a reasonable room at the Holiday Inn for the night. Ms. Barber refused. Ms. Barber ignored Mr. Holmes from that point on while she wrote up her own report of the incident. Mr. Holmes requested a copy of this report and she refused once again. Ms. Barber then refused to assist Mr. Holmes in any way and walked off without making an attempt to present Mr. Holmes with any aid what so ever, essentially leaving Mr. Holmes stranded.
Even without my proper counsel at the time, Mr. Holmes explained that he had a binding contract with the airline to travel direct from NY to LA and had provided ATA with $780 worth of good and valuable consideration, the receipt and sufficiency of which was acknowledged by ATA by both the ticket receipt and when ATA allowed Mr. Holmes to board the plane in New York. . Mr. Holmes then explained that if ATA did not allow him to continue on his flight and fulfill their obligation under their contract, ATA would be liable for breach. The terms under which ATA airline chose to breach the contract were and are unacceptable; ATA had no right to give Mr. Holmes' seat to someone else.
Ms. Lolita Barber (the supervisor at the scene) was a particular offender in this process. Her actions: threatening to have Mr. Holmes dragged off the airplane; unwilling to even talk to Mr. Holmes and offer any explanation for what was happening; ordering six (6) police officers to escort Mr. Holmes out of the plane, an act with no other goal or reason but to seriously embarrass Mr. Holmes in front of fellow businessmen seated in the plane (a fact that Mr. Holmes had made clear to her); and finally culminating in the racial remark (witnessed by several other passengers and police officers alike): speaking to her colleague, believed to be Gustavo Miranda, she clearly stated that "it's always the "White" folks that think WE have to help THEM."