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Airline Apologizes for Mistreatment of Double Amputee

January 14, 1989

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ An airline apologized to a double amputee passenger after employees put him on a baggage dolly ″like a sack of potatoes,″ verbally abused him in front of other passengers and treated him so roughly that at one point they pulled off his pants.

Fred Hankin, 66, had a first-class ticket aboard a Pan American Airlines flight on Jan. 9 from his former home in New York to San Jose.

But Hankin was so mistreated by airline personnel that his nostalgic trip home became a memory of bitter humiliation, said his daughter, Sheila Byers of San Carlos.

″It’s hard to believe that people could be so insensitive and we will take whatever measures are needed,″ said Pan Am official Gustavo Serrano, who acknowledged that Hankin was mistreated by employees.

Hankin had both his legs amputated at the groin because of a circulation problem he developed in the Army. He has no tailbone and no hips so balancing in a chair without help is difficult for him, his daughter said.

But despite special arrangements made prior to the trip, Hankin ran into trouble, Byers said.

After transferring to an alternate flight because of a six-hour delay, Hankin was placed on a baggage cart ″like a sack of potatoes″ and wheeled onto the plane where he waited 45 minutes as other passengers stared at him, Byers said.

When Byers protested the lack of first-class seating, she said she was told by the gate agent: ″If he’s that sick, he shouldn’t be on a plane; he should be in a hospital.″

After a passenger offered Hankin his seat near the more roomy bulkhead, an airline employee transferred him in such a way that his pants fell off, Byers said.

And when Byers explained that she needed a seat next to her father to help him use a hand-held urinal, she said the agent ordered the rest of the crew: ″If she opens her mouth again I want her kicked off the plane.″

Serrano said Pan Am would offer Hankin compensation, but he did not elaborate.

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