Unfortunately for Air France, if they do business in the US, they have to follow our rules, just as American or United must follow the laws in France.
In the United States, we have the Americans with Disabilities Act. It states that no person can be denied access to a job, building or other activity without good reason, including safety. The airline must make reasonable accomodations for the passenger.
Now, I realize the woman was flying from England, and I do not know if they have such laws. But the woman was from the United States, I assume bought her ticket in the US, and her itinerary terminated in the US.
The ADA wasn't written with this in mind, but recent court cases have extended it in this manner.
Reasonable accomodation would have been to provide an employee who could travel with her (for a reasonable fee) or allowing a helper animal or person to travel with her and immediately return to the originating station.
I don't see any reason why AF
couldn't have done this for someone who is obviously in need of help and well outside of the normal range of passengers.
While I don't necessarily agree with this application of the ADA, the only reason to deny the woman boarding is her safety, and that only in the event of a crash, in which case I'd expect her to die, anyway; or for one of the FAs to help her.
If I'm the CSA at AF
, I'm calling the Station Manager before I deny this woman boarding. Not because I think she deserves special treatment, but because I don't want to be the point-man when the lawsuit comes (and you know it will, in this day and age). It's C-Y-A time.
But then, if I were in charge, someone like this probably would have gotten a first/biz-class seat free-of-charge, not out of pity for their handicap, but because that puts them close to the front exit door and makes getting them off the plane in an emergency much easier...
Enough of this diatribe...
Those who fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it in summer school.