Matthew Meehan, who is “lucky” enough to be a diamond medallion Delta passenger was forced to endure what he deems (and we agree) t a dehumanizing experience in order to not miss his flight and be late for an important meeting. However, things went from bad to worse as the situation unraveled.
“I sit in my seat and I immediately smell something, and I thought, ‘Not another flight that smells bad,’” Meehan tells Yahoo Lifestyle. But he wasn’t the only passenger who noticed the smell. “I realized the person next to me also had their nose covered,” he says. “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 recalls.
Horrified Meehan and his seatmate bolted to the front of the plane to alert the flight crew. Unfortunately, they were as equally shocked by the crew’s reaction, or lack thereof! “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.
“The Delta representative that spoke with me after the fact told me their protocol is to have a biohazard kit onboard. The fact that they either didn’t take it down and offer me something from it to clean myself properly or it was absent completely from the plane broke protocol either way,” Meehan says. “They said they didn’t have one.”
Despite the obvious biohazard the flight attendant never called for sanitizing products from the ground crew, but instead gave Meehan two paper towels and a bottle of gin to clean himself with in the bathroom. “She wanted me to clean myself with regular alcohol, drinking alcohol,” he says.
After all this, Meehan still how or from whom or what the diarrhea had come from — animal or human; he just wanted it gone! “We didn’t know if it was a person who’d gotten sick, an animal who’d gotten sick. … Originally, the flight crew said that it was a German shepherd. 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,” he says. “But to me, it doesn’t matter. It’s feces; it carries disease any way you look at it.”
Meehan had no choice but to go take the pathetic cleaning materials offered him and head into the bathroom. “It got all over my bare ankles,” he says. “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.”
When Meehan exited the bathroom, he was stunned to find that they were still boarding passengers! The Delta representative told Meehan that “Delta broke protocol in continuing the boarding process once the biohazard was identified and reported” by him. “Once a passenger brings a contagion or biohazard to staff’s attention, you’re supposed to stop boarding entirely,” Meehan says he was told. “And 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.”
When Meehan asked the flight crew for an update, he alleges they said, “If they didn’t clean, that’s not our responsibility, someone from the gate needs to take care of that. We are in the middle of an active boarding. We’re busy. If you want, you can get off the plane and talk to somebody.” And that’s what he did.
When Meeham explained to the gate agent, she called a manager, who Meehan described as confrontational, however he tried to remain composed “not get kicked off the plane.” “I tell her 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 alleges. “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.’”
“At that point, four or five other passengers had gotten up and out of their seats as well, standing at the flight attendant area in front in protest and wouldn’t sit until it was cleaned,” he says. To avoid causing a commotion, the manager had someone clean that area with paper towels. “To my knowledge, they did not use any kind of sanitizing solution, and I was supposed to be OK with that because she quote unquote, cleaned it.”
When situations like this occur, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends staff “remove any visible contamination and clean and disinfect the area with products approved by your company.” After the flight, the CDC instructs staff to “notify cleaning crew of areas contaminated with diarrhea, vomit, blood, or other body fluids, needing more than routine cleaning or possible removal.”
Not satisfied with the lack of sanitizing, Meehan asked one more time, but he got the same answer: “She said, ‘We are pushing this plane back, you can either sit in your seat or you can stay behind.’” Meehan had to be somewhere the next morning and this was the only flight that could get him there in time. So he had no choice but to “fester in feces for two hours.”
“It felt like I was an animal tied up, forced to lay in their own feces that you see sometimes in PETA videos,” he says. “It was dehumanizing to be spoken to like that, demanded to sit in a seat full of feces with no care. They care more about getting a plane out on time than the safety and health of the passengers on the plane.”
The flight was oversold, so he and the others didn’t have the option of sitting elsewhere. “So we sat there during the entire flight, my row, the rows around me, it still smelled horrific. There was still feces caked into the carpet.” They had to ask for blankets and covered the seats and floors to try to and shield themselves from “contact with the excrements.”
In a statement to Yahoo Lifestyle, Delta said:
“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 customers impacted by the incident and has reached out to make it right, offering a refund and additional compensation. 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.”
As compensation for his horrific experience, Meehan was offered 50,000 miles in compensation. “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,” he points out. “Their offer was insult to injury. 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.”
After landing in Miami, Meehan was supposed to catch a connecting flight to Tampa, but instead took a four-hour. He explained, “I’m just not ready to get back on a plane.”