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A Diamond Medallion Member says he was forced to sit in a seat “covered in feces” on a recent Delta flight from Atlanta to Miami.
On Nov. 1, passenger Matthew Meehan was on the last flight of the day from ATL to MIA. After boarding and taking his seat on the plane, Meehan noticed a foul odor emanating from his row. He immediately knew the stench was not an ordinary plane smell.
“I sit in my seat, and I immediately smell something, and I thought, ‘Not another flight that smells bad,'” Meehan told Yahoo Lifestyle, noting that he saw other passengers around him covering their noses to block the odor. “And then I went to take my charger out, bent down completely to charge my phone and realized it’s not just a smell, it’s actually feces and it’s all over the back of my legs, it’s all over the floor, all over the wall of the plane. And I sat in it,” he said.
After realizing his seat was covered in feces, Meehan and a passenger from his row went to inform the flight attendants, who he says were less than helpful. “The flight crew said, ‘Are you kidding me? We turned that in. I can’t believe they didn’t clean it.’ They knew it was there,” Meehan said.
The flight crew did not halt boarding, call the gate for sanitizing products or even use an onboard biohazard kit. Instead, the flight attendant allegedly gave Meehan two paper towels and a tiny bottle of gin to clean himself off in the aircraft lavatory.
“She wanted me to clean myself with regular alcohol, drinking alcohol,” he claims. “It got all over my bare ankles. They didn’t give me gloves. I had to take my pants off because it’s on the back of my pants, so feces, at this point, is transferring to my hands, with no kind of sanitizing solution to be able to clean anything with, and only one tiny bottle of gin,” he said.
And, when he got out of the bathroom, the flight crew was still boarding the plane as if there was no issue. Meehan says at this point he didn’t know if the excrement was from a human or a dog. But regardless, it was a health hazard.
“Originally, the flight crew said that [the feces was from] a German shepherd,” he explained. “And then the gate agent said in his paperwork that it was an older man who got sick upon landing. And now Delta Corporate is saying that it was a golden retriever puppy. But to me, it doesn’t matter. It’s feces; it carries disease any way you look at it.”
Meehan told Yahoo Lifestyle that a Delta representative said the flight crew broke protocol by continuing to board the flight after he alerted them to the contaminated seat. “Delta broke protocol in continuing the boarding process once the biohazard was identified and reported …. You’re supposed to deboard if possible so that the contagion or biohazard can be properly cleaned without spreading or contaminating others. But they just kept boarding the plane.”
After the flight crew seemed unwilling to help, Meehan decided to get off the plane to speak to a manager at the gate. “I tell [the manager] what happened and she said, ‘If the cleaning crew didn’t do their job, that’s not my problem. What do you want me to do about it?’” Meehan claims. “Very confrontational, like, so what? So I said, ‘Can we get that cleaned up so I can sit down?’ So she says, ‘Sir, it’s almost time for that plane to leave. You can sit in your seat or you can be left behind.’”
Once the manager realized four or five other passengers were upset by the excrement and would not sit down, Meehan says the flight crew was ordered to clean up the contamination with paper towels. “To my knowledge, they did not use any kind of sanitizing solution,” Meehan said. “And I was supposed to be OK with that because she quote unquote, cleaned it.”
When he asked once more for the area to be sanitized, he said the manager and crew did not comply. “She said, ‘We are pushing this plane back, you can either sit in your seat or you can stay behind,’” Meehan said, adding that the contaminated and completely full flight was the only one that would get him to Miami on time for a work commitment. So he was forced to “fester in feces for two hours,” he told Yahoo. Sources with knowledge of the matter say that after the airline was alerted, an additional cleaning crew was called to the aircraft and used disinfectant to clean the area on the floor and seats, prior to the flight’s departure.
“It was dehumanizing to be spoken to like that, demanded to sit in a seat full of feces with no care,” he said. “They care more about getting a plane out on time than the safety and health of the passengers on the plane.”
To add “insult to injury,” Meehan says the airline offered him 50,000 SkyMiles for his trouble. According to TPG’s valuations, that’s worth about $600.
“That’s what I’m worth to them? 50,000 miles? After putting my health at risk along with everyone else on the plane? That’s what people get for signing up for a credit card. It’s not even enough for a flight.”
In an emailed statement, a Delta spokesperson told TPG: “On Nov. 1, an aircraft operating flight 1949 from Atlanta to Miami was boarded before cleaning was completed following an incident from a previous flight with an ill service animal.”
“Delta apologizes to a customer affected by an issue on board a recent flight after the area around his seat was not appropriately cleaned following an incident involving an ill emotional support animal. Delta has issued a refund and additional compensation to the customer impacted by this incident. The safety and health of our customers and employees is our top priority, and we are conducting a full investigation while following up with the right teams to prevent this from happening again. Upon landing in Miami, the aircraft was taken out of service to be deep cleaned and disinfected.”
Delta has been in direct contact with the customer, offered to reimburse his shoes and suit in addition to already refunding his flight and additional compensation for the inconvenience. The airline also began an internal review of the incident to prevent a similar situation from happening again.
Meehan told Yahoo he wanted a heartfelt apology, but instead got a corporate response. “Here’s 50K, now go away.”
“I wanted to know definitively if it was an animal or person, if it was sick, had they gone to a doctor, why was it diarrhea? What was it? Do I need to go get hepatitis shots? Do I need to get inoculated? And they won’t give me the answers,” he said.
“I’m a Diamond Medallion and a million miler,” Meehan said. “If this is how they treat their top tier, I can’t even imagine how they treat people who aren’t part of the SkyMiles program.”
Featured image by Darren Murph / The Points Guy.
*This post has been updated with Delta’s latest statement on the matter.
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