U.S. Airways Strands Woman In Wheelchair On The Tarmac?

This story has plenty of salaciousness and few details, but here we go: A woman is claiming that U.S. Airways employees helped her off of her flight from Bakersfield to Las Vegas, then left her parked in a wheelchair on the tarmac, causing her to miss her connection to Orlando. Eventually, another employee found the woman, wheeled her into a hallway and left. The woman’s daughter says that the employee told her mother, “this is not my job, but I can park you here.”

Her daughter told WKMG in Orlando:

“She called me at 3 a.m., crying hysterically because she didn’t know what to do and no one would help her.”

U.S. Airways responded:

“We are not happy to hear about this incident. We will work with our employees because that is not how we deal with our customers.”

Wheelchair-Bound Woman Left On Tarmac [Local 6]
Woman stranded on tarmac [CNN] (Thanks, Lucas!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Master Update Exception says:

    It looks like her arms are functional judging from the picture. Why didn’t she just wheel herself there by herself? Maybe her arms aren’t strong enough to move her massive weight around?

  2. MercuryPDX says:

    This story has plenty of salaciousness and few details…
    Ahhh…. the perfect storm! :)

    The daughter wants a solution? Three words: Non-stop Flights Only.

  3. shan6 says:

    The last time I was in a position where a woman in a wheelchair wasn’t completely able to help herself I took the time to wheel her around the grocery store so she could do her shopping. And then helped her put it all in her car before I lifted her into her seat…But that’s just me.

    (I was 16 at the time, and working at that grocery store)

  4. Do they not have boarding gates/airways at Las Vegas airport?

  5. theWolf says:

    I’ve flown into Vegas a zillion times and have never deplaned anywhere but at a gate. Something is goofy about this story.

  6. forgottenpassword says:

    Well this definately qualifies for the 2007 “not MY job!” award!


  7. 7j6cei says:

    I wonder if the offered her a credit card on the tarmac… ha ha ha ha ha ha

  8. shan6 says:

    @theWolf: I have switched planes in large airports where they don’t pull us up to a gate, just sort of let us out, where we go through a door into a terminal. I don’t think it is that uncommon. But it seems like this lady didn’t know what she was supposed to do, and nobody took the time to give her any guidance.

  9. vaxman says:

    My buddy just got his laptop stolen by US Airways flying from England to Calgary with 2 layover stops in the states. Anyone have any suggestions?

  10. trollkiller says:

    They left her on the TARMAC???? How did she dodge the planes? I bet it looked like a game of Frogger from the control tower.

  11. KogeLiz says:

    I wouldve asked someone for help.

  12. m4ximusprim3 says:

    @trollkiller: Maybe thats what it was:

    Billy Bob Thornton: “Cessna 240, bear right 10*”
    John Cusack: “Oh, you almost clipped her with the prop!”
    Billy Bob: “I’ll get her with that 747”

  13. rjhiggins says:

    @MercuryPDX: Yeah, that’s real helpful advice. No problem finding non-stop flights from Bakersfield, Calif., to Orlando, right?

  14. homerjay says:

    “We are not happy to hear about this incident. We will work with our employees because that is not how we deal with our customers.”

    Why aren’t they taking this seriously???

  15. chili_dog says:

    There’s only 1 BFL-LAS non-stop it’s at 11PM. There is a red eye to MCO from LAS so being found at 3am seem very plausible to me.

    By the Way, that would make the employees Mesa Airlines. And Mesa employees make the US Air employees look down right competent.

  16. warf0x0r says:

    Sad thing is if the “Not my job” guy/gals boss had said, “Where were you?”

    “Pushing a lady in a wheel chair.”

    I would expect the answer from the boss to be,
    “That’s not your job, your suspended/fired/a moron.”

  17. OK, note to terrorists. There’s no security on airport tarmacs. As long as your in a wheelchair, no one can see you.

  18. RAREBREED says:

    I wonder how long a person has to be left alone in a wheel chair before they DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!?

  19. trollkiller says:

    @GitEmSteveDave: If you see someone in this you know you are in trouble.

  20. MercuryPDX says:

    @rjhiggins: How about LAX to MCO? I bet two hours in a limo or airport shuttle is preferable to two hours on a tarmac or in a hallway.

  21. DrGirlfriend says:

    There has….*has* to be more to this story. There has to be. Not to excuse the airline in the least because, come on, how do you just ignore a passenger in a wheelchair just kinda hanging out? How could the number of employees who must have seen her not even stop to ask her what was up? But what did the woman do to call attention to her situation? Did she sit there quietly? Did she try to flag people down? So many questions! Why are so many of these stories so damn skimpy with information? Damnit, I need to be a reporter so I can ASK THESE QUESTIONS.

  22. jollymonjeff says:

    The airline actually used the phrase “Deal with our customers”?
    That alone doesn’t sound too customer centric. Maybe deal with our employees and work with our customers would have been better.

  23. CurbRunner says:


    And just where will you find non-stop flights to the majority of destinations?

  24. ord2fra says:

    When the first and biggest button on any travel website is “Sort by Price (lowest to highest)”, is it any wonder? Not to excuse this action, which is terrible, but it dovetails into the entire downward spiral of what’s being cut to provide low prices on every good and service in the country now…

  25. MercuryPDX says:

    @CurbRunner: Larger airports that offer more flights across multiple carriers?

    It doesn’t sound like she makes this trip often, why not indulge in an airport shuttle or a limo… if only for the piece of mind and door to door service.

  26. @trollkiller: They also make battlebots. Ahhh, there are times I love being an american.

  27. clevershark says:

    Personally I wouldn’t fly US Airways again, but that’s largely because I’ve flown with them before. As they say, “fool me once, shame on you…”

  28. just_paranoid says:

    i’m sure someone will say she desrved it because when she bought the ticket she agreed to their terms and agreements which clearly stated it’s no one job to push your wheelchair off the tarmac, and that is she does a charge back she commiting fruad. lmao. there you go B*#@n.

  29. @DrGirlfriend: And because you want to ask those questions, you will never be one. You will have to ask what hardships unrelated to the story has/have they gone through. Was it soap poisoning?

  30. trollkiller says:

    @GitEmSteveDave: Fine Ralphie reference.

  31. solmssen says:

    I’m fairy sure salacious doesn’t mean what you think it means. Salacious is similar to scandalous but also implies sexual impropriety. Unless the poor wheelchair lady was fondled by the US Airways staff, I think there are better word choices to be made here.

    I know I’m being pedantic, but I get tired of watching web discourse turn into a bad Norm Crosby routine, especially when a definition is a click away…

  32. hiland says:

    It’s too bad they failed to mention that US AIRWAYS’s Customer support by phone was closed for the holidays. Although they were able to outsource their booking agents to the phillipines.

  33. coan_net says:

    If she is able to wheel herself around, why didn’t she just go with the other passengers?

    If she was not able to wheel herself around, why was she flying alone?

    Even though it would be nice if some airport personal would help – but I know if my job was loading bags at the airport, and I decided to be helpful and take someone all the way to their connecting flight, then walk back to my regular job in a little bit – I would probable get in trouble for not doing my job since my boss does not want to have a negative comment on Consumerist about how they never get all the bag loaded on time and can’t seem to get bags where they are suppose to go.

  34. Maude Buttons says:

    @solmssen: Thank goodness you were here. I only hope you can spread your message of vocabulary throughout the whole internet — before it’s too late.

  35. Antediluvian says:

    @homerjay: That’s an excellent question. And if I’d been paying attention, I would have asked it before you did. D’oh!

  36. Major-General says:

    @MercuryPDX: From Bakersfield? Maybe if your destinations are major hubs, but not Orlando.

    Also, it’s more like three hours in an airport shuttle. And maybe the connecting flight was cheaper than taking the shuttle down. I know my local shuttle to LAX runs $70 round trip, and I live an hour from LAX. Or I could under certain circumstances take the train down…for $40 roundtrip.

  37. Major-General says:

    @Major-General: Correction, taking the LAX-MCO PLUS the shuttle/shared ride van/limosine/private jet/camel.

  38. ratnerstar says:

    @solmssen: Normally I’m opposed to grammar/spelling/usage nitpicking, but I’m with you on this one. I was expecting some salaciousness in the story, perhaps involving hot US Airways flight attendants making out in the cockpit while the poor woman waited on the tarmac.

    Instead, I got just standard thoughtlessness. You need to manage my expectations better, consumerist.

  39. clevershark says:

    @coan_net: “If she was not able to wheel herself around, why was she flying alone?”

    You’re absolutely right. We all know how disabled people always have so much money that they can afford to fly someone else with them, and also that they always know someone who can travel on their schedule!

  40. trollkiller says:

    @coan_net: Don’t forget to add the liability if you run her into a wall or the wheel falls off the chair.

  41. @trollkiller: Or the wheelchair doesn’t have tremor-damping to control direction regardless of the operator’s tremors or spasticity.

  42. trollkiller says:

    @clevershark: You are expected to make reasonable accommodation, dedicating and employee to care for a disabled person is not reasonable.

  43. trollkiller says:

    @GitEmSteveDave: I think the Tank Chair has that as an option. ;-)

  44. kc2idf says:

    It doesn’t sound like they are “taking this seriously”.

  45. rjhiggins says:

    @MercuryPDX: Again with the helpful “solutions.” It’s more like a 3-hour ride (I assume you’re familiar with LA traffic), a limo ride of that distance ain’t cheap (certainly if you need special accommodations for a wheelchair), and I’m guessing a disabled woman doesn’t have a lot of discretionary income to toss around.

    But hey, life’s simple when you’re not disabled and have all the answers, huh?

  46. kris in seattle says:

    I give up. *headdesk*

  47. jmschn says:

    LoL funny story.

  48. SVreader says:

    @DrGirlfriend: Very good questions, and I was wondering why none of those were addressed in the story too (maybe they are in the video?). I was also struck by “‘She called me at 3 a.m., crying hysterically because she didn’t know what to do and no one would help her,’ daughter Tammy Nelson said.” Why didn’t she call earlier? Did she only gain access to a phone at 3am?

  49. coren says:

    What the hell does a cripple think they’re doing flying anyway. Her own fault. She’s in a chair with wheels, she should have rolled her way there.

  50. esthermofet says:

    U.S. Airways stated, “…that is not how we deal with our customers.”

    As a matter of clarification, that is exactly how you treat your customers.

    Now, can somebody explain to me how any passenger, at any time, is ever placed on a tarmac at any international airport? Perhaps they meant to say she was wheeled onto the concourse.

  51. esthermofet says:

    Correction — that’s how they “deal with” their customers.

  52. trollkiller says:

    If she had one of these, this never would have happened. [www.engadget.com]

  53. @trollkiller: As I learned from Baloo and Ms. Cunningham, you need to achieve at least 75mph to achieve flight. Add another 15 mph, and some canard wings, and she could’ve flown herself. Of course, would she complain about the service during the flight then?

  54. MercuryPDX says:

    @rjhiggins: You’re right! You Win! Her daughter would never help with costs. I am an insensitive clod because I myself am not disabled, or have aging parents who confuse easily, and any kind of discretionary income to insure I won’t get a call from Chicago, Atlanta, or Phoenix like “Your dad missed his connection and we cannot find him. Thank you for choosing Delta.”

    I’m with wannabejew and also give-up.

  55. DrGirlfriend says:

    @solmssen: Thanks for pointing that out (re:salaciousness). I was expecting at least some hanky-panky to be in the story somehow, and was sorely disappointed.

    If you promise salaciousness, then you had damn better deliver!

  56. yg17 says:

    @MercuryPDX: First post is a “It’s the customer’s fault!” Must be a new record.

    Did you ever think that not everyone lives near an airport that serves as a large hub and that a non stop flight from one city to another is absolutely not possible unless you lease your own private jet? My family’s probably going to be booking a cruise in a couple weeks that departs from and returns to San Juan, Puerto Rico. I’ve been looking at flights, and not a single carrier has direct flights from St. Louis to San Juan. We have to stop in Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, Miami or Orlando if we want to get to San Juan.

    So I’m guessing when the first leg of my flight is late and I miss my connection, you’ll be blaming me for not taking a non stop flight? Or are you going to tell me to drive to Puerto Rico to avoid problems?

  57. UpsetPanda says:

    A few people have pointed out a few details that seem suspicious. She calls at 3 a.m….either she didn’t find a phone (in an airport?) til then or she doesn’t have a cell phone. Sure, some people still don’t have cell phones, but those are probably in the minority and if I had a disabled mother who was traveling alone, I would surely make sure she had a method of contacting me directly. But that’s a moot point, considering it’s what I would’ve done, and not the case here.

    A lot of people who are in wheelchairs can’t roll themselves anywhere, sure, but if she wasn’t flying with someone, how exactly could she get anywhere if she couldn’t roll herself? It sounds like the daughter didn’t make plans with the airline ahead of time to see if her mother could have an attendant bring her to the gate, or make sure she reached her proper destination. how the heck was she going to get to her connecting flight if she couldn’t do it on her own?

  58. trollkiller says:

    @GitEmSteveDave: May have to up those numbers, you would have the drag of the large chair wheels to contend with.

  59. @clevershark: Your sarcasm fails to answer what is a perfectly reasonable question. Even if she didn’t have the money or someone willing to go with her for free that doesn’t explain why she got on the flight anyway.

    Was she led to believe by U.S. Airways that their employees would be helping her? Had their employees helped her before? Did she just assume they would (for whatever reason)? Does she normally rely on the kindness of strangers? Did she have help that bailed at the last second? What’s the deal?

    I also want to know why she was flying alone. That doesn’t mean I assume she has the money to hire a butler to push her chair while serving her patte.

  60. @trollkiller: Well, thank god she isn’t using the tank chair. Treads are even worse.

  61. trollkiller says:

    Shame on you guys blaming the victim. Oh the woe, what is this world coming to? How dare you think someone with a special need plan ahead? Come on the lady is in a WHEEL CHAIR and that absolves her of all need to think or plan.

  62. She calls at 3 a.m….either she didn’t find a phone (in an airport?) til then or she doesn’t have a cell phone.

    @CaffeinatedSquint: Maybe reception was bad out on the tarmac?

  63. trollkiller says:

    @GitEmSteveDave: For that you would need a JATO. [en.wikipedia.org]

  64. supergeorgina says:

    @theWolf: The planes from Bakersfield to Vegas are tiny, so when they land they just open the door, bring some stairs, then you’ve got to walk yourself down the plane stairs and over and up more stairs to get to the building where the gates are. I definitely believe she was actually stranded on the tarmac. Terrible situation. (Flying out of Bakersfield really limits your airline choices.)

  65. @trollkiller: I love watching the video of the Blue Angel’s Fat Albert taking off. Maybe this lady could take some pointers. 45 degree take off angle.

  66. supergeorgina says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: From what her daughter said in that CNN video, it sounds like she had made arrangements with the airline and had been assured her mom would be helped. Regardless of whether it’s US Airways’ responsibility–they said they would help: they had a responsibility to keep their word.

  67. trollkiller says:

    @GitEmSteveDave: She could always get a push truck to help. [winterbrahma.blogspot.com]

  68. MercuryPDX says:

    @yg17: Hardly a record.

    1. Yes, but in this particular case the woman had access to a larger hub.

    2. No, I give you more credit then to think you’d sit/stand/kneel on the tarmac waiting for someone to come along and help you. It’s a different situation.

    3. Now you’re just being silly.

  69. MissPeacock says:

    I guess I am just confused as to why she didn’t start yelling for someone to come get her. It must have taken a bit of time to deplane the entire aircraft. Seems like someone must have been able to see or hear her at some point. Perhaps she was too afraid to do so. I wish we had more info.

  70. @MissPeacock: We don’t even have enough info to know that she didn’t start yelling for help. Maybe she was last off of the plane or was passed up by the other passengers before the employee left her on the tarmac. Maybe the other passengers suck as much as the airline employees.

  71. chalicechick says:

    @esthermofet: I flew into Vegas early Sunday morning. They were having trouble with the Jet Bridges and we had to walk across the tarmac, too.

  72. rjhiggins says:

    [www.usairways.com]Rectilinear Propagation: Actually airlines always help disabled passengers, and it’s offered clearly on the USAir website.

  73. UpsetPanda says:

    From what I heard on the video, the daughter said, “This is not my job, that I can park you here.”….original post said ‘but’ but I don’t now how big of a difference there is.

    I found [www.floridatoday.com]

    gives a little more detail.

  74. g4lt says:

    employee: “that’s not my job”
    boss: “neither is anything else now, SECURITY”

  75. trollkiller says:

    Hmm the Florida Today article puts a new wrinkle into this. The plot thickens. Thanks for the link caffeniatedsquint

    “We don’t have any accounts that we left her unattended. She ended up missing the connecting flight to Orlando because the flight from California was delayed,” said Liz Landau, a spokeswoman with U.S. Airways.

    “She was supposed to get there at 11:02 a.m. but the flight didn’t arrive until 11:40 p.m. The flight to Orlando was departing at 11:45 p.m. She wouldn’t have made that flight.”

    Landau said workers, who removed her from jet and took her to the airport terminal, gave her a meal voucher and put her in a hotel.

    “We got her on a new flight the next day and upgraded her to first class.”

    Landau also said that for safety reasons, a passenger would not be allowed to remain on the tarmac.

  76. cryrevolution says:

    The question I have is did she try & get anybodys attention? Is she disabled enough that she can’t just push her way off the tarmac? If she was able to call her daughter, perhaps she had use of her limbs somehow. I know if I was wheelchair bound, I would yell at the top of my freakin’ lungs for someone to help me. I was wave my arms or throw something, anything to get a fellow passenger or workers attention. So many questions, so little answers….

  77. FessLove says:

    The fact is, someone who is wheelchair bound and cant wheel themselves around shouldn’t fly alone. I understand it costs money to bring someone with you, but no one ever said this was a fair world, and I know if I worked there, I wouldn’t want to be put on caretaker duty.

    Providing a personal caretaker to someone on a flight is not a “reasonable accommodation”.

  78. FatLynn says:

    @trollkiller: Wait, wait, wait…she had a 43 minute connection? I have two working legs and I would never book a connection that short. Ever. An 11:45 departure means that boarding began around 11:15, and assuming she is in the “pre-boarding” group because she needs additional help, she left herself 13 minutes to get from one gate to the next. Not smart.

  79. othium says:

    @fesslove: I agree with this. Those that require extra assistance when traveling need to make the proper arrangements. Stories like these help perpetuate the perception that people with disabilities are helpless and can’t do anything by themselves.

    The people I assist every day make their own transportation plans and always leave some “wiggle room” for unexpected delays, etc. They tell me “always have a fall-back plan, just in case.”

    She could have called to ask for assistance from the airport ahead of time, or inquired as to what sort of services were available. I hate to blame the person in this situation, as sounds like a sad situation, but this was very much preventable with some simple pre-planning.

  80. aka Cat says:

    As to why a person who can’t wheel themselves around was traveling alone: she may normally use a powered wheelchair. Airlines don’t allow powered wheelchairs in the passenger compartment. In fact, the aisle on a plane is far too narrow for even a regular wheelchair. An airport or airline employee *always* rolls a wheelchair-bound passenger onto and off of the plane.

    However, this story sounds really fishy.

  81. mconfoy says:

    @MercuryPDX: @MercuryPDX: @MercuryPDX: are you a schill for the airlines or some frustrated wannabe travel agent? what she could have done has nothing to do with what did or did not happen with US Air.

  82. MercuryPDX says:

    @mconfoy: Watch the CNN video after about 1:15 and you’ll see what I’m responding to.

  83. UpsetPanda says:

    Providing a personal caretaker to someone on a flight is not a “reasonable accommodation”.

    @fesslove: I think it would’ve been reasonable, if they had arranged for that and made sure that she was getting help the entire way there, like othium: said. Even if they called ahead, and made arrangements, I’d make sure that she was getting help the whole way. When someone flies alone, they make plans. How is being disabled and flying alone any different? It means you have to make more accommodations and plans, like bringing a cell phone. Cell phones, for their basic functions, are not hard to use.

  84. synergy says:

    If she was able to pick up a phone (cell or landline) to call her daughter, why couldn’t she wheel herself if not to wherever she was going at least off the damn tarmac?? And if she was blowing a call (cell or landline) why didn’t she call information for the airport security or airline or something and tell them HEY! I’m on the effing tarmac and none of your inconsiderate employees will help me!

    How her daughter was going to help (assuming) hundreds/thousands of miles away I don’t know.

  85. trvlr64 says:

    My husband is paralyzed from the chest down, but before he was, I didn’t know much about wheelchairs so I guess I can understand some of the idiotic and thoughtless comments I see posted here. Such as, why did she take a connecting flight? Well, maybe she’s not the booking wizard many of you are, and she took what she could afford, or what her travel agent gave her. Or, why is a person in a wheelchair traveling without an aide. Please. Who can afford to, if she’s in a wheelchair, she already has expenses that most of you could not begin to fathom, and besides, the airlines say they accomodate WC’s. And most do a great job, in our experience. Why did she call her daughter? My husband calls me when he’s in a jam, hoping I will have advice or just to give him moral support. Maybe her cell was almost dead, and she needed someone who could make calls for her. Or, why didn’t she take a shuttle or a limo? Shuttles are rarely able to accomodate a wheelchair. Limos never are. If she can’t walk, she can’t stand up to get into a vehicle. Forget about taxis, too. The W-chairs don’t fit in the trunk, and nobody is going to carry you in and out even if you have a foldable. Wheelchair van rentals are hundreds of dollars just across town, they charge about half what an ambulance charges. Most regular folks can’t afford them and most private insurance doesn’t cover them. Most planes don’t have room for a “real” wheelchair onboard, such as a power chair, so that gets stowed, and you are stuck in a tiny chair that requires a pusher to go more than a few inches. Even if you are in a good chair, and can use your arms to use a phone, it doesn’t mean you have the strength to wheel youself across a tarmac, uphill, etc. If your plane stopped on tarmac, people have to carry you down the plane steps, or they bring a hydraulic lift over to convey you down to the ground. It happens after everyone else deplanes, and the crew is only obligated to stick around until you’re off the plane. And it’s obvious they are anxious as heck to get you off and get going. But I agree, it’s pretty unlikely you’d just be left on the tarmac. The airport staff takes over once you are off the plane. And it’s also become clear that this particular story was fiction. But unless you truly know what it’s like to be totally wheelchair-dependant, don’t jump to conclusions about what is and is not reasonable. We have thousands of troops coming home every year who will be in WC’s the rest of their lives; they are going to face so much frustration and financial hardship already without dealing with people thinking they have all the answers for them when in reality, they don’t know the first thing about it.

  86. jjason82 says:

    I live in Bakersfield, CA and know something about Meadows Field Airport (the one she flew out of). It is a very small airport that has relatively few destinations. If you’re flying out of Meadows Field, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get at least one layover, since most flights are just shuttling people from Bakersfield to a bigger, larger airport somewhere else. It would be unrealistic to ask this woman to get a nonstop flight from Bakersfield unless she wanted to drive to LAX, which is what most of us Bakersfieldians do anyway.

  87. Anonymous says:

    I know and agree that helping the woman in the wheel chair would have been the right thing to do, but my true feelings are that is it not someone elses responsibility to help. I would hope that in such a situation most people would help and that I too would… but as for being upset no one did… it really isn’t their job. I feel especially horrible for saying this because my grandma is in a wheel chair. At the same time, she is extremely self sufficent… and if she does need help, she specifically asks for it. Obviously this women just expected help and could not have communicated it properly. No one leaves a women alone on the tarmac after being told they will not be able to do it themselves. (if that is the case that it really is a horrible move). I guess I’m somewhat torn on the issue. I think both sides are to blame. I see it more as miscommuncation that complete and utter disrespect.

  88. jjason82 says:

    That’s the kind of attitude that’s ruining the world. Was “help helpless ladies stranded in wheelchairs” in their job description? Probably not, but it was their job as a decent, human being. If people would quit looking at things like, “well, it’s not my job”, things like this wouldn’t happen in the first place.