Okay, this is more straightforward than it seems -
1. He is not automatically entitled to the front row on any airplane in any jurisdiction.
2. The guy had a Y class ticket. He was not booked in J or F, and they did not give him the opportunity to upgrade.
3. Clearly he did not do his due diligence - such as notifying the airline that he required special seating accommodations. The seat pitch was such that he was unable to get his legs into the seat - that's the only reason they were removed.
I sympathize with the guy. It must have been seriously embarrassing having to take off his legs with every eye on the airplane watching - that's just an inevitability when you have a disability.
I'm disabled myself with a spinal cord injury and the net result of that is that when I fly there is some inconvenience I have to put up with. More often than not I have to gate check my wheelchair and hope the ramprats don't screw it up (as they have before to the tune of $400 worth of damage. Spinergy LX
wheels are expensive), even with explicit assembly and disassembly instructions. I'm always the first person on the plane, and the last person off. If I need to go to the bathroom - hoo boy, summon the flight attendant, hope they're not doing any meal or beverage service at the time, wait for them to bring the aisle chair, transfer out (with all eyes on me watching the spectacle), get to the bathroom, take care of my business, transfer back to aisle chair, get pulled back to my seat, and transfer back to my seat. If it's coach, this requires two seatmates to vacate the middle and aisle seat - I always take the window. Pain in the ass (metaphorical, as if I could feel my ass), but that's just life. This guy is making a big to do about nothing.
Skippy: If there's an emergency and I need to evac, I'm screwed. As are a ton of other passengers in my situation (and Mr. De Jong's situation). It's just part of the assumed risk. As far as the FAA is concerned, the bar is set at "being able to 'assist' with my own evacuation." They make no reference to me being able to evacuate on my own - which I can't do because I'm not leaving my seat without an aisle chair, flight attendant, or husband.
Now, Mr. De Jong should have been able to get a bulkhead seat - but if he didn't notify the airline that he would be needing these accommodations ahead of time, there should be no expectation that he will be able to be accommodated. As thee article states he offered to pay for an upgrade - he should have done this when he initially booked his travel. It's also clear that he didn't pre-board, and boarded with the rest of the passengers.
It sounds to me like he hadn't flown in a long time - assumed he would be able to cope fine, boarded the plane, and found the seat pitch wouldn't allow him to get seated with his legs attached. Once you're aboard the plane, you're not getting your seat upgraded or changed... this is a story all about nothing, and granted I am making some pretty gross assumptions about it - I know that I'm right. I've been through the whole airline disability accommodations rigamarole more times than I care to admit and there's very little that goes wrong, or is otherwise unexpected if I simply do my part and tell the airline I need accommodations (aisle chair, preboarding assistance, use my own wheelchair at the gate, etc) - everything tends to work out.
This guy... the whole story isn't being told. I've filled the blanks in with my experience to my satisfaction....