Two passengers who are deaf claim that a Delta gate agent refused to communicate with them in writing when they tried asking about their seating arrangements.
Melissa Elmira Yingst and Socorro Garcia said they were traveling from Detroit to Los Angeles on Sunday and were initially told by a Delta agent at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport that they would be seated together on the flight, according to a Facebook post on Yingst’s account.
When they arrived at the gate, Garcia said the agent "kept talking to us without writing anything down," and they were informed their seats were apart. Garcia said Yingst took out her cellphone to write a question to the agent about the seating.
“The gate agent rolled her eyes at us,” Garcia said. “Melissa asked for her to write. After few moments, she finally wrote on a piece of paper and said the flight is full and can't book us together."
Garcia then tried to write a reply, but the agent allegedly crumbled up the paper and threw it in the garbage, according to the Facebook post. Garcia also accused the agent of pushing her when she tried to get the paper from the garbage.
“Melissa was stunned and took out her iPhone to take a video of her,” Garcia said. “I was shocked and asked for a paper and pen to communicate. She still refused and called the police on us.”
According to Yingst's post, they were asked to leave the airport because police said Garcia had assaulted the gate agent. They left and got a room at a nearby hotel. Garcia told NBC News they arrived in Los Angeles Monday night on a different airline carrier.
“This really isn’t about us not being able to sit together but how they handled communication and refused to provide us access to the needs we asked for,” Yingst said in the Facebook post, saying the experience was "very traumatic."
Delta told NBC News that Yingst and Garcia had purchased different tickets, one for full coach fare and one for basic economy fare, and were told by the agent that they would try to seat them together, but it wasn't guaranteed.
The gate agent initially communicated with them through messages on one of the passenger's phone, according to Delta.
They then communicated on a piece of paper that the agent threw away once the conversation had ended, Delta said. But, one of the passengers, believing their concern had been dismissed, went behind the agent's desk and allegedly pushed the agent out of the way to retrieve the paper from the trash. At that point, Delta decided to refund the tickets so Garcia and Yingst could take another airline carrier to Los Angeles, the airline said.
Delta said in a statement that it was in contact with Garcia and Yingst and were reviewing the situation "to better understand what transpired."
"We take situations like these very seriously and as part of our culture of continuous improvement, we are using this as an opportunity to learn," Delta said.