Airline Disgraces Vet Because of His Prosthetic Leg

veteran prosthetic legAn Afghanistan veteran was reportedly harassed by a flight attendant on Memorial Day. I wish this statement wasn't true, but this is what happened to decorated war veteran Adam Popp who has a prosthetic leg (pictured) as a result of his wounds from an improvised explosive device while on duty in 2007.

Popp was flying on Alaska Airlines home from Seattle to Washington, D.C., after completing a 94-mile adventure race with other wounded veterans. He's an inspiration. It also seems he was discriminated against for his prosthetic leg, and beyond that, he was treated with disrespect when a flight attendant couldn't see beyond his prosthetic leg and told him he had to change seats or he'll be kicked off the plane.


Popp was wearing shorts, so his prosthetic was clearly visible. He was seated in an exit row seat and the flight attendant didn't believe he was capable of performing the duties needed for a person sitting there in the event of an emergency.

There is no one I'd rather have seated in that seat other than a decorated war veteran. But despite trying to reason with the attendant, Popp was disrespected and threatened. He said that the attendant said he was going to call security to have him removed from the plane if he didn't change his seat. Popp recalled that the attendant said, "No, you aren't going to sit there," and when he asked why, the attendant replied, "You are wearing a prosthetic, you can't sit in the exit row." This member of the Alaska Airline flight left to check the manual and returned insisting he change seats. Popp said:

That flight attendant was stuck on that one piece of gear. That’s the only thing he saw ... He didn’t see me as a person. He didn’t see me as [having] the ability to do the things they require. He saw that one thing and said, 'Nope you aren’t sitting here.' It was his way or I was off the plane.

This makes me sad. What happened to talking to people? Why couldn't that attendant have a constructive conversation and politely ask Popp if he was able to conduct the necessary duties in the event of an incident? The Federal Aviation Administration has this in its regulations:

The presence of the prosthesis would not be the determinant for being able to meet the criteria, but rather the physical ability to perform the exit seat duties.

In which case, Popp was able to perform the seat duties. The flight attendant would have known that if he hadn't made an assumption or only saw the prosthetic as a disability.

It should be noted that Popp sat in an exit row on his flight to Seattle without issue.

It's awful that this veteran was put in this situation. I understand that the flight attendant was just doing his job, but it doesn't seem like he was doing it with kindness or respect ... whether this was a veteran or not. Those of us who watched Amy Purdy on Dancing With the Stars saw firsthand how she didn't let a so-called disability hold her back from doing amazing things. 

Alaska Airlines is reportedly sending Popp a letter and a $200 flight coupon. They said they are working on resolving this matter. I hope they do.

What do you think of this? Should Popp have been re-seated? Does it seem the flight attendant was out of line?


Image via Adam Popp/Twitter

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