World

Airline accused of destroying passenger’s R658,000 wheelchair – then damaged compensation 3 weeks later

  • American Airlines destroyed a man’s wheelchair and then severely damaged his replacement.
  • The total value of John Morris’ wheelchairs is about $75,000 (about R1.2 million).
  • The airline has apologized, but Morris said “apologies don’t solve the problem.”
  • For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

An American Airlines passenger said the airline destroyed his wheelchair and severely damaged his replacement seat less than three weeks later.

On July 9, John Morris’ electric wheelchair was dropped by American Airlines staff while it was being loaded onto a flight from his home airport in Gainesville, Florida, to Charlotte, NC, he told Insider.

Its frame, already damaged on a previous American flight, was bent, the wheel was broken, and it could no longer ignite.

Morris, an accessible travel consultant and founder of travel blog WheelchairTravel.org accepted that the damage to his $40,000 (about R658,000) wheelchair was accidental. He was forced to postpone his journey while he found a new chair.

John Morris’s wheelchair, with a bent frame and a wheel that had come off

John Morris

The airline provided Morris with two loaner seats. One Morris described as “not designed for a full-time wheelchair user.” The other was “probably a decade old and lacked any of the features I need to prevent problems related to pressure on my body.”

As a result, Morris bought a new one that cost about $35,000 (about R576,000) and had to fly to South Florida to buy it.

But after flying back to Gainesville with his new chair on July 26, again on American Airlines, he realized that the new chair had also been damaged.

“The damage is pretty significant. It’s bent in a lot of places, the joystick is loose and won’t stay in place, there are rips and tears all over the upholstery,” he explained.

Morris, 32, said he was now struggling to control the chair and had injured himself.

He hoped the airline would cover the cost of the broken chair and the necessary repairs for the replacement.

In a statement to Insider, American Airlines said: “We offer our deepest apologies to Mr. Morris for the damage to his wheelchair while he was traveling with us, and our team is working to ensure a better experience for his future travels. A member of our team has reached out to address his concerns and apologize.”

An American Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Nicolas Economou/Getty Images

An immeasurable burden

Morris said it was “heartbreaking” when a wheelchair was damaged. “I understood right away what the next few months were going to look like, that I wouldn’t have the device that gives me mobility and the ability to participate in society and go about everything in life the way I do,” he said.

“The burden placed on the disabled person with the destruction of their chair can last for months or longer – it is truly immeasurable.”

Morris expected to spend up to 80 hours solving this ordeal.

In an email to Insider, Sen. Tammy Duckworth said, “We would never accept airlines breaking the legs of 1 in 65 passengers, and yet that’s essentially what happens when 1 in 65 wheelchairs get damaged of airlines.

I know from personal experience that when an airline damages a wheelchair, it’s more than a simple inconvenience – it’s a complete loss of mobility and independence. We cannot rest until every airline finally treats our wheelchairs as what they are: complex medical equipment, not just suitcases to be tossed around.”

In response to the airline’s apology, Morris told Insider that “apologies don’t solve the problem” and called for new policies and a “sustainable solution” to the frequent mishaps that disabled people repeatedly suffer when flying.

“I’m the top tier frequent flyer in American’s loyalty program, I’m an Executive Platinum member, but I haven’t had a significant conversation with anyone in any power at American Airlines,” said Morris, who writes about his travels. He wanted a “seat at the table” for himself and other disabled people.

Ministry of Transport data shows that an average of 35.8 wheelchairs are broken or damaged on US flights daily.

In November 2021, disability activist and wheelchair user Engracia Figueroa died after United destroyed her wheelchair. She sustained body wounds from the replacement chairs which became infected and led to her death.

Airline accused of destroying passenger’s R658,000 wheelchair – then damaged compensation 3 weeks later

Source link Airline accused of destroying passenger’s R658,000 wheelchair – then damaged compensation 3 weeks later

Back to top button