TAMPA — When Kliphton Miller left his home in Tarpon Springs before the sun came up on May 23 for a 7:15 a.m. flight to Las Vegas, he didn't realize how quick the trip would be. Airline employees refused to let him board the plane.
Miller, 44, who is legally blind, was traveling with his 18-month-old granddaughter to Las Vegas, where her parents live, after an extended visit in Florida. But Frontier Airlines employees at Tampa International Airport refused to allow him to board the plane, even though he had paid for the flight.
"I frequently fly with my granddaughter on other airlines and had flown on Frontier with her before too, but they still denied me access," said Miller. "I was denied because I am blind. They told me I was a liability."
Miller had no problem moving through the airport with his granddaughter without any extra assistance, including through the security checkpoint, he said. But when he asked for help getting on the plane once he reached his gate, that's when airline employees began to question his ability to watch over the young child during the flight.
Frontier employees told Miller that he would be a liability in the case of an emergency. They said it was against their corporate policy to let him on board.
"I would have been fine on the plane," Miller said. "Usually flight attendants will help me to the bathroom if I need to change her, but I can do it myself. I was a single dad for 10 years before I got married, and then I was a stay-at-home dad. I am completely capable."
Miller said he traveled with his granddaughter on a Frontier flight to and from Tampa and Minneapolis in November without issues.
"I've flown on Frontier, Spirit, American, with her alone and had no problems," he said.
Miller's incident with Frontier Airlines is the latest in a slew of heated mishaps between airline employees and its passengers lately. United Airlines came under fire earlier this year when the City of Chicago Department of Aviation Police forcedly removed a passenger and physically accosted him to remove him from the airplane. A Delta flight attendant told one father he would go to jail and his children would go to foster care if he didn't give up seats on a plane that he paid for.
Frontier did refund Miller's ticket in full. But he still filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation. A few days later, a representative from Frontier's customer service department called him to apologize.
"We apologize to the passenger for the inconvenience he encountered while traveling with us last week. There was a customer service failure during his travel experience with us at TIA," said Richard Oliver, a spokesman with Denver-based Frontier Airlines. "We have coached airport team members and ensured compliance with Frontier policy that ensures all passengers are treated with respect and ensures that we are sensitive to their individual travel needs."
Frontier also rescheduled his trip to Las Vegas free of charge — and even told Miller they're working on changing their corporate policies so this doesn't happen again. Miller was able to fly out from Tampa with his granddaughter two days later without issues.
"People like to make assumptions. They like to judge a book by its cover and always assume the worst about someone. That doesn't get nobody anywhere. I just hope this doesn't happen to anyone else," Miller said.