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Witness blasts Alaska Airlines for treatment of fellow passenger

A Bend, Ore., man took to Facebook this weekend to describe the incivility he alleged was inflicted on a fellow passenger by Alaska Airlines.

On Friday, concert and event promoter Cameron Clark was traveling out of Oregon's Redmond Municipal Airport with his family and witnessed what he described on Facebook as “the worst of humanity” when airline staff on duty appeared to ignore and refuse special assistance to a couple he thought was “disabled/mentally and physically challenged.”

Clark estimated the couple to be in their 70s and said that the man later told him he had late-stage Parkinson’s disease, that his companion had MS and that he was trying to get to Bellingham, Wash., to see his daughter.

“He had a hard time walking,” Clark wrote on Facebook, “No one offered him a wheelchair or asked how they could be helpful. He stumbled off toward the safety inspection line. Predictably, he didn't understand/comprehend their restriction of his luggage, and got stuck in security.”

Throughout the weekend, Clark’s Facebook post created a flurry of negative and outraged comments, which Alaska Airlines responded to with a series of Facebook posts of its own.

The passenger did not get on his Friday flight, but did fly Saturday and is visiting with his daughter at an alternate location, Alaska Airlines spokesperson Paul McElroy told NBC News.

The airline refunded the passenger's initial ticket price and provided complimentary round-trip transportation for his trip, McElroy said.

He added that while the airline has not yet contacted the passenger, it has contacted his companion and issued an apology. “There are things we should have done better and Horizon Airlines will be issuing a post on Facebook to that effect later today,” said McElroy. (Regional airline Horizon Air and Alaska Airlines are both owned by the Alaska Air Group.)

Coincidentally, the airline on Monday is meeting with a representative of Open Doors Organization, an independent disability advocacy group. "We're going to leverage their visit and ask them to help us review what we did with this customer to see if we could have done better," McElroy said.

Eric Lipp, the group's executive director, said there are laws to help passengers with disabilities and extra services airlines can and are willing to provide. “But the law says the passenger has to self-identify,” Lipp told NBC News. “Otherwise, it’s a puzzle. The breakdown here is that the passenger didn’t self-identify and the airline didn’t have the right codes in the system to get him services he was entitled to.”

Find more by Harriet Baskas on StuckatTheAirport.com and follow her on Twitter. 

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