Traveling is already a hassle, and if you are someone with a disability, the stress of traveling is compounded due to the extra planning. All the preparation in the world can still fall to ruins if an airline destroys the very thing that gives you freedom.
The first event that happened on July 9th was published on Mr. Morris’s blog. He really goes out of the way to give the American Airlines staff the benefit of the doubt considering how much he flies and how often they have successfully handled his chair.
Mr. Morris says that while American Airlines did provide him with two loaner chairs while he figured out how to replace his powerchair that retails for about $40,000, he described one of those loaners as “not designed for a full-time wheelchair user.” The other, he said, was “probably a decade old and lacking any of the features that I require to prevent issues related to pressure on my body.”
Many people don’t realize that wheelchairs are not just “mobility devices” that allow a disabled individual to move around. Many disabled people suffer from secondary conditions such as pressure issues that can rapidly materialize into life-threatening infections if the person is not regularly using the right equipment.
John Morris wrote about the tragic death of disability advocate Engracia Figueroa who died after she developed a pressure sore after being forced to wait for five hours in an airport seated in a chair that was not designed to relieve her pressure issues.
After Mr. Morris replaced the first chair that was damaged, he was flying home to Gainsville on July 26 with the new equipment only to find out that this chair was also substantially damaged.
While American Airlines has issued an apology and offered compensation for a replacement, Mr. Morris wants the airline to go beyond boilerplate statements. As a seasoned traveler and an Executive Platinum member with American Airlines, he wants a seat at the table with the executives that have the power to enact meaningful policies that can prevent these situations from happening.
Data from the Department of Transportation reveals that an average of 35.8 wheelchairs are broken or damaged on US flights daily. It would be totally unacceptable if 36 passengers a day were suffering broken legs after flying major airlines. Hopefully, both the public and regulators will hold airlines more accountable.