Man with prosthetic leg not allowed exit row seat on Asiana flight

A man was asked to vacate his exit row seat on a flight because of his prosthetic leg.

Tim Seward, 31, was aboard a flight from Beijing to Seoul on Asiana Airlines when a flight representative told him to vacate from his exit row seat because he is "not a normal person", for the safety of the passengers.

Seward, who is a self-described professional skateboarder and action sports enthusiast, had specifically paid for the exit row seat just so he would have more space for his prosthetic leg, according to abc7.

Photo: Screengrab from Seward's video

The conversation between Seward and the flight representative was captured in a video filmed by Seward himself. 

Apparently, the flight representative claimed that there was no way he could prove that Seward's prosthetic was functional.

"I don't know how you can show me. Maybe you can run, you can jump, it's ok but no I can't prove it," the representative explained.

"So for the best solution, I think you should move to a suitable seat."

But Seward thought his explanation was illogical. 

"But if you're asking me to move, that proves that I can move," Seward argued.

"I don't need a wheelchair to move to the other seat, right. Your reasoning doesn't make much sense."

The representative had no words to Seward's defense, but still insisted that he should move to another seat.

With no choice given, Seward moved from the more expensive exit row seat to a cheaper middle seat, according to his Facebook post. The incident also reportedly caused the flight to be delayed by an hour.

Seward's video of the dispute has since attracted the attention of several media outlets, and many people have also expressed their empathy for Seward.

On Tuesday (May 23), Asiana Airlines released a statement responding to the incident.

“As an air carrier responsible for protecting the safety of its passengers, it was an inevitable decision to request reseating of the passenger after careful review on whether the passenger would be capable of performing the duties required in the event of an emergency," Asiana said in the statement, according to NBC.

While prosthetic limbs are not specified in the criteria for restriction of assigning exit row seats in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulation, Asiana added that "the regulation states that the airlines reserve the right to judge whether the passenger would be able to perform the required safety procedures in the case of an emergency."

The airlines also further assured that there was no intention to cause discomfort to Seward.

Seward's claim that he paid more for the seat was however refuted.

"Asiana Airlines does not offer exit row seats for sale to customers in order to avoid any restrictions on selecting and assigning passengers who can perform the functions needed in the emergencies," it said.

But no amount of justification from them could undo the discrimination felt by Seward. 

Seward had lost his leg to cancer when he was 11, and has not ever experienced any problems with paying extra for an exit row seat. 

The incident took him by surprise.

"For anyone to judge me based on my prosthetic alone is absolutely insane," he said.

ongymm@sph.com.sg

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