The article below has the details:
A couple of excerpts:
In their group was [Ayola's] brother who has autism spectrum disorder. “He is essentially nonverbal,” he explained, “making him unable to express himself oftentimes. He suffers from OCD, sensory overload, and many other symptoms that can make air travel particularly difficult for him. For his safety and the safety of those around him, it is important that he sit with a family member on flights.”
A woman seated in an adjacent row was willing to switch seats so two Isola family members could sit together.
This, for some reason, irked a flight attendant, who allegedly demanded Mr. Isola’s brother move back to his original seat. “We explained to her that he has special needs and that this small accommodation would be necessary,” he said, “however she continued to raise hell about passengers switching seats.” Fellow passengers came to the Isola party’s defense.
Twenty minutes later, a supervisor boarded the plane and instructed the flight attendant to allow the seat swap. The supervisor explained to the FA that seat swaps aren’t uncommon on flights.
The flight was now 45 minutes late. The flight attendant gets the pilots involved and purportedly claims the family is causing “a safety hazard.” One of the pilots decides everyone must deplane. That didn’t sit well with many people — including “airline management and airport security (who) got involved and told the pilot that there was no safety issue and that the plane should fly now.”
Mr. Isola said the pilot (I assume he’s referencing the captain) refused to operate the flight and then left the terminal, his crew following behind.
A new crew was needed to operate the flight, which departed about two and a half hours late.
So what's behind this complete breakdown in customer service? I'm a little surprised at the pilot and the FA refusing to listen to the ground/gate supervisor. I would have thought the Delta/Skywest teams would have put up a united front and resolved the issue in favor of the passenger, especially since it was a simple matter of a consensual seat swap.