Delta Makes Woman With Muscular Dystrophy Crawl Off Plane

On July 20th, Julianna’s (delayed) Delta flight landed in Atlanta at 7:30pm, with a connecting flight scheduled for 8:05pm. Julianna, who has muscular dystrophy, missed the connecting flight because nobody came with a wheelchair until 8:05—the same time the connecting flight took off. To make matters worse, the plane crew told Julianna she might make the flight anyway if she stopped waiting for help and got off the plane right now, so she crawled down the stairs on her own. When the wheelchair came she was “wheeled into a back room and advised” that her plane had taken off. But that was just the first half of her ordeal, and the next eight hours only got worse.

The employees in this room were debating who would get me to the ticket gate to be re-ticketed because it was no one’s job and the appropriate personnel were not responding to their calls. After that was resolved I was given a new boarding pass for a flight expected to leave at 12:55 AM. Then this person advised me she cannot get me from a D Gate to Gate A9. She again called for the appropriate personnel who never showed. We waited by an elevator for someone she convinced to bring me over to Gate A even though it was not his job. I had to beg him to stop at a bathroom entrance and to wait for me and then he finally delivered me to Gate A9.

I was given a meal voucher for my INCONVENIENCE but could not purchase any food because again there was no one to bring me to an eating establishment, never mind wait on the long line for me to make a food purchase.

At 11:15 I advised the gate attendant I was dehydrated and cramping because I could not purchase any water. This is the only nice employee that treated me with dignity. The flight I was transferred to was supposed to leave at 10:22 PM but was delayed until 1:30 AM. This gate attendant went and brought me water off of the plane.

This gate attendant also made sure she finally found some one at 11:15 PM to push me to obtain food and another bathroom break. I arrived in West Palm Beach at 3:15 AM with no ride and had to again crawl into the shuttle service to get home.

I understand plane delays and waiting at airports, but is this how you treat your handicapped passengers???

The text above is from a letter Julianna has sent to Richard Anderson, Delta’s CEO, who we hope will do more than send her another food voucher—like take real steps to make sure handicapped passengers are treated with a minimum of respect when they’re traveling.

(Thanks to Chris)
(Photo: Andrei Dimofte)


Edit Your Comment

  1. spoco says:

    I’m speechless. This is horrible and not surprising.

  2. LorneReams says:

    Ummm, this may actually violate some laws here. If you are handicapped, you have very specific rights that some person saying “it is not my job” will not alleviate.

  3. starrion says:

    She’ll get a voucher.

    People want to pay the absolute lowest price to travel.
    The airline doesn’t make money.
    The airline won’t pay it’s people.
    The employees punish the customer for flying.

  4. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    I would love to hear the explanation for this one.
    Some kind of bullshit “liability” issues no doubt. Here was an opportunity (or several opportunities) for someone to step up and shine (or at least do the right thing), but apparently only one person could be bothered to be CIVIL to another human being.
    I can’t imagine even if there is some explanation why it was not offered at the time.

    I don’t know that any other airline would have done better in any case.

    Juliana, you have my sympathy and I hope you are treated better in the future.

  5. Fujikopez says:

    Wow, that is so sick. Delta is out of their minds. What kind of horrible company treats people with a disability that way? DELTA.

  6. Chune says:

    I don’t think this is a breakdown of Delta’s processes so much as a breakdown of common decency and respect for one another as human beings.

    Sadly, it will be much easier to fix Delta.

  7. SkokieGuy says:

    This sound so appalling it’s hard to believe someone could be treated this horridly, both with the first flight and upon landing in West Palm Beach.

    This woman crawled down the plane’s stairs? So how would a wheelchair have gotten her out of the plane if there was no skybridge to the plane? The flight attendants and other passengers just watched?

    When the woman arrived in West Palm Beach, she crawled to the shuttle? Shuttles are on main roadways outside the aiport. This woman was on the floor crawling through an airport and all the passengers, police, security, airline personel, shuttle driver, etc. – no one intervened?

    What a sad comment on humanity – or lack thereof

  8. balthisar says:

    @LorneReams: But they did the job eventually. If they’d left her stranded completely, then any laws — if applicable — would come into play. I’m not saying the whole situation wasn’t screwed up, only that the law — if there is one — wouldn’t apply to specific individuals, and therefore “it’s not my job” is a fair defense until a management level person instructs the butt-holes otherwise.

  9. SigmundTheSeaMonster says:

    Sue them. Sue everybody.

  10. SteveZim1017 says:

    Well its good to see the airlines branching away from just autistic children. I can’t wait to see which disability is hit next.

    any guesses?

  11. GyroMight says:

    It is nice to know that they treat everyone including people with disabilities with equally crappy customer service.

  12. Gabryael says:

    I’m utterly aghast and disgusted. My sister also suffers from MS and I, for one, was furious to read about your treatment. Delta Airlines will no longer be seeing any more of my travel money.

  13. organicgardener says:

    Such callousness is unbelievable. Most average citizens would help someone in distress; you’d think that the EMPLOYEES would certainly want to help – or at the very least do it because it’s their job! I hope that Mr. Anderson punishes the employees involved and makes them take a refresher course in customer service.

  14. mir777 says:

    This is truly, truly appalling.

  15. Cupajo says:

    Good lord. What a disgrace.

  16. RabbitDinner says:

    Not their job? I worked in a hospital-patient escort is the easiest thing in the world. And did these clowns really have anything better to do? Christ on a cracker

  17. sonicanatidae says:

    Dont worry.. I’m sure they’ll be “taking it very seriously as soon as it was brought to their attention”.

  18. johnva says:

    @SkokieGuy: As someone who has a muscular atrophy disease myself, I would definitely have stopped and helped her off of the plane at the very least if the employees were refusing to do so (I can walk fine with the assistance of prosthetic devices). Pathetic that so many people were such assholes.

  19. blue_duck says:

    That is disgusting. And every flight I’ve been on lately at least waits for a few minutes until they’re sure everyone is there if passengers are coming for a connection..

  20. sixninezero says:

    With such a lack of compassion in our society no wonder we are in the socio-economic mess. Everyone seems to be focused on themselves. Yikes.

  21. Aladdyn says:

    Its not the responsibility of the airlines to take care of someone with a handicap when they are not on their plane. (I would think anyway) She received everything she asked for, although obviously not in a timely manner.

    Do airlines prevent ppl from bringing crutches or wheelchairs on planes? Seems like there wouldnt have been a problem if she was able to bring her own wheelchair. Id like to know how come she didnt have a wheelchair with her.

  22. jamesdenver says:

    WTF? I organized my team’s MS bike tour and raised 30k exactly to prevent this nonsense from happening.

    Rather than pay the lady off I’d rather see the employees at hand have to volunteer for a fundraiser or event to learn more.

  23. ekthesy says:

    This is slightly misleading. Delta EMPLOYEES made her crawl off the plane–I can’t believe I’m even writing this–not Delta Airlines, the company. I’m sure the company has rules and regs in place for something like this, but blame the flight attendants and the staff at Hartsfield–they dropped the ball on this one.

    However, Delta the company needs to answer for their employees, so indirectly they are to blame…but this is totally not corporate policy.

  24. mizmoose says:

    [] has all the links to the US Dept of Transportations requirements for meeting ADA accommodations. A couple of the links are bad, but the most important ones (in my unhumble opinion) are the link “Air Carrier Access Act Provisions”, a summary of the act that says things like:

    “Airlines are required to provide assistance with boarding, deplaning and making connections. “

    “Carriers must designate “complaints resolution officials” to respond to complaints from passengers and must also respond to written complaints. A DOT enforcement mechanism is also available.”

    She needs to do more than just mail the president of the airline. She needs to file a formal complaint with the DOT and maybe even the FAA, and perhaps consider contacting an ADA-specializing lawyer. (The first link on that webpage, “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel”, is a huge Microsoft Word file with a form to use to file a DOT complaint at the end.)

    I once got stranded in an airport by an airline whose crew said, “Gee, there’s nobody here to push you in a wheelchair, too bad.” I only found out a year later that this is a federal violation and a complaint would have gotten them (at the least) a nice fat fine.

    One thing I’ve also heard is — never, ever, get off the airplane itself until a wheelchair is present for your transport, even if it means missing a flight. Once you are off the plane, they can just leave you behind in a waiting area. As long as you are on the plane, they have to help you. If they don’t like it, or they mis-treat you, immediately demand to speak to the airline’s Complaints Resolution Officer. They are *required* to have a CRO available 24×7, even if it’s someone on the end of a phone.

  25. blue_duck says:

    @SigmundTheSeaMonster: Don’t sue me though~ I have no money :P And the whole no affiliation whatsoever with Delta thing..

  26. Sudonum says:

    The Americans With Disabilities Act has no criminal penalties, only civil. When ADA as it relates to airlines has come up in other posts, comments were made that the ADA did not apply to airplanes, only the ground facilities. She can sue them for failing to provide “reasonable accommodations” but there are no criminal charges that can be filed, as it relates to the ADA.

    Delta (and it’s executives) should be taken out and shot for creating the atmosphere where this could be allowed to happen. Especially it it’s main hub, where just about EVERYONE wears a Delta uniform.

  27. parabola101 says:

    Delta is worse that US Air… I think the airline needs to be and should be held accountable for the behavior of their employees. This situation should be elevated to higher authorities AND the person with the disability NEEDS ensure that the airline is capable and fully aware of ANY special needs required by it’s passengers. Others may disagree, but both share some responsibility, but the airline, in my opinion acted was very unprofessional and inhumane.

  28. blue_duck says:

    @ekthesy: Every flight attendant I’ve ever known has worked for an airline, not an airport.

  29. siberiankt says:


    I wouldn’t be surprise that she had to check her wheelchair and it was on the flight she had missed.

  30. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Do airlines prevent ppl from bringing crutches or wheelchairs on planes?

    @Aladdyn: Actually, they do. Someone correct me if I’m wrong here but doesn’t the airline have to use their own, smaller wheelchairs for disabled people? You can’t board a plane in a normal one.

  31. It astounds me that people in a customer oriented industry would treat somebody (anybody!) this way. Between highschool and university I worked for a road construction company (a decidedly not customer oriented service). One day we were paving in front of a nursing home. A woman came out and wanted to cross the fresh asphalt in her slippers and robe (asphalt comes out of a paver at right around 400 F, and cools over about six hours). The project superintendant was standing nearby, and informed her that is would blister her feet through her slippers. He then made my jaw drop and offered to carry her across the road, which she accecpted.

    Eat that airlines, road construction companies are giving better customer service than you.

  32. Parapraxis says:

    let’s accidentally “shatter” some shins and make those delta people crawl off a plane themselves.

    I hope this woman sues the hell out of Delta. It seems like it’s the only way they’ll listen nowadays.

  33. johnva says:

    @Aladdyn: Did you even read the blurb? They didn’t help her even when she WAS on their plane, and their incompetence was the reason she missed her connection and had to wait around for so long. And most airlines do provide assistance through the terminal, etc for people in wheelchairs and the like.

    And yes, airlines do prevent people from bringing their own wheelchairs on planes. You can check them as luggage, but they usually only let you have one of their folding chairs on board the aircraft. So she was entirely dependent on them for mobility.

  34. forgottenpassword says:

    They are probably so understaffed & overworked that the employees didnt have time to do anything outside their normal duties. Its the airline’s fault not its employees (except the employees that were officially designated to help the handicapped…. they seemed to be missing completely).
    Imagine you are the employee…. being stuck between a rock (asshole management who would probably write you up for ignoring your regular duties by helping this handicapped person) and a hard place (customers who demand service).

    I have been in these situations before.

  35. Mira Mi Huevo!!! says:

    I can’t believe that workers in the airline industry are allowed to treat abled or disabled people like this.

    People want to pay the absolute lowest price to travel.
    The airline doesn’t make money.
    The airline won’t pay it’s people.
    The employees punish the customer for flying.

    This decribes the cycle, but the business is still good for these companies, maybe their profits are not as high, but they still profit… if they were really losing that much they would be out of business or being saved by the government (Taxpayer Money) already.

  36. taney71 says:

    Shouldn’t she be traveling with help? I mean it seems to me that she expects the airline to carry a heavy burden.

  37. johnva says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: Yes, they usually make you use one of theirs on board the plane (I presume for space reasons, understandably). I don’t use a wheelchair, but a quick Google told me this answer. They put personal wheelchairs in the cargo hold, instead.

  38. oldheathen says:

    It’s the feel-like-crap story of the day!

  39. ThinkerTDM says:

    Unfortunately, airlines are also making cuts in the quality of people they hire- I am guessing these people just got hired from some fast food place.
    All joking aside- the best way to not make money is to treat customers like shit. It takes mere seconds to do the job right. And I am not talking about getting paid- if you want to get paid more, do your damn job!

  40. johnva says:

    @taney71: The airline agreed via their policy to assist her. Then they didn’t provide reasonable assistance as promised. The fact is, they didn’t follow their own policy. It’s irrelevant whether she should have someone else to help her. She made her arrangements based on the airline’s stated policy of providing assistance.

  41. KeilwerthLA says:

    I hate to play devil’s advocate here, but why is everyone buying her story hook line and sinker without question? I find it hard to belive that someone dragged themselves from the gate to the curb without anyone causing a stir.

    She may have been treated like crap, she may not have and might be looking for a golden ticket. I think more facts are needed before making judgements against either side.

  42. Wow, when did Delta become FEMA?

  43. johnva says:

    @KeilwerthLA: I highly doubt that – I don’t believe most people who have MD are looking for anything other than reasonably humane treatment. It’s a terrible disease, and it’s very much possible that she couldn’t walk at all without a chair (though who knows exactly what she meant by “dragging herself” – that could range from having to drag her feet painfully along the ground to crawling prone on the floor). And anyway, all we have to go on is her statement. We have no reason to doubt it based on this.

  44. karmaghost says:

    I thought people with disabilities didn’t like to be referred to as “disabled” or “handicapped.”

    BTW, what she had to go through is awful.

  45. unpolloloco says:

    It’s Delta – is there anything more to be said?

  46. blonderengel says:

    No, I can believe it.

    Two years ago, after kneesurgery, my leg was in a cast, and I was on crutches.

    I had requested wheelchair to be planeside and help getting to the other gates.

    No chair, no help.

    I did the crawl, crutch, hobble thing too.

    The other people? Watched.

    Just like the folks in the NYC ER who watched the woman die.

  47. ideagirl says:

    @LorneReams: Not may. DOES.

  48. mabus says:

    that is completely inhumane. julianna deserved FAR MORE dignity than she received. there is NO excuse for treatment like that.

  49. Scuba Steve says:

    the appropriate personnel were not responding to their calls

    And they should be fired. Immediately.

  50. RabbitDinner says:

    @karmaghost: Better than “crippled.” I thought disabled was the most PC, although I don’t know of any other term except “differently abled”

  51. ideagirl says:

    @Aladdyn: Yes, they do. Airlines require wheelchair-bound passengers to ship their chairs through in luggage. Then special chairs that fit down the plane aisle are used to transport passengers. My aunt, a paraplegic who travels frequently, once had her wheelchair lost by the airline on a flight from Iowa to Seattle. It turned up 6 months later in Kansas City. True story.

  52. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    I find it hard to belive that someone dragged themselves from the gate to the curb without anyone causing a stir.

    @KeilwerthLA: After reading some of the insane stuff here that turned out to be true this is unfortunately too easy to believe.
    There’s also that problem of the more people that are around the less likely it is that someone will help. (Although from her story it sounds like the other passengers would have already left by the time she crawled out the plane.)

  53. timmus says:

    I think this says a lot about the corporate culture within Delta Air Lines. It’s hard to picture employees in a place like Target being this callous.

  54. bohemian says:

    The employees involved in this that refused to aid this woman should all be fired. They are not just crappy employees, they are crappy excuses for humans. You don’t just walk away from someone who obviously is in real need, even if your boss told you to go do something else or it isn’t in your job description. Not to mention there are laws that outline that the airlines have to assist people to get to their other flight. Since people are forced to check their assistive devices it is the airlines boo to help them.

    This woman may have been in a situation where she can not move herself in a non-motorized wheelchair due to her condition. Just leaving her abandoned and flat out refusing to help someone in need is inexcusable.

    I hope this woman takes every available legal action against Delta for this.

  55. joe18521 says:

    This is almost too evil to be true. I wonder if there’s another side to this story.

    Some details just don’t make sense. As a couple people pointed out, how was she able to crawl from the gate to ground transportation without anyone noticing and how did she get home after getting off the shuttle?

    I honestly hope it didn’t go down as she described. It’s just too horrifying to believe.

  56. shanerz says:

    There’s a little ol’ thing called the ACAA, which is essentially the airlines’ version of the ADA. Both it and the DOT regulate how disabled people are treated/handled by airlines. If this story’s true and legitimate, Delta would be wise to quickly settle this before it went to the DOT–it’s a finable offence. Somewhere in the $20,000s as I recall from former Conflict Resolution training at a now defunct airline (pick one!).

    Word to the wise, she should have demanded to speak with either a manager or call corporate if these people were to ignorant to know what they were doing. Station-level personnel have been known to pass over the finer points of policy and regulations. That’s why there’s Corporate.

  57. bohemian says:

    @KeilwerthLA: I have known a few people with conditions like MD. Some of them can get around if they hang on to things and kind of drag themselves a bit to get around. But it is far more akin to crawling than to walking, certainly not an efficient or easy way to get around.

  58. cmdrsass says:

    @SigmundTheSeaMonster: This is why they play the “it’s not my job, card”. Liability. It’s better to do nothing than the wrong thing.

  59. axiomatic says:

    @SigmundTheSeaMonster: I agree, sue them in to oblivion, and the unhelpful employees should be fired.

  60. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    I can believe it as well. I had to go on a business trip a few months after major surgery, and I needed a wheelchair at Heathrow airport. British Airways put several of us who needed wheelchairs in a side corridor and made some of us, fortunately not me, miss connecting flights (one couple missed a flight to Tel Aviv that was not going to refly until the next day). Even the employees apologized for the crappy service.

    By the way, the method they used for getting a wheelchair rider into the plane is by using a special truck that raises to airplane door height and lowers to a ground level ramp.

  61. joellevand says:

    @Aladdyn: WTF? Are you serious, or do I need to sound the “Troll in the dungeon!” alarm?

    @KeilwerthLA: I wondered as well about how much was hyperbole, but considering a recent trip through a few airports, I’m inclined to believe the exaggeration, if any, may only be slight.

    I mean, I don’t know the specifics of the OPs disease/disorder, but if one can crawl, I’d imagine one can wheel onesself over to a food place for some food, for example, and did not have to just remain immobile where the OP was parked by the rude attendant. However, what was basically lacking was the OP getting a wheelchair and being assisted into the wheelchair and moved to their destination in the first place, and any exaggeration, if any, was used to further the point that these people were rude bastards. Like I said, I don’t specifically know what the disorder is like for this individual.

    @taney71: Oh my gosh, I know this is going to sound CRAZY to you, but handicapped people don’t all need minders, and some of them are very capable of taking care of most of their basic needs with minimal assistance that is required to be provided to them. It’s not like the OP is a child!

  62. joellevand says:

    @Scuba Steve: Without knowing *WHY* they weren’t responding (such as they were already helping someone, or maybe they were out of the area on a break, etc.)? Really? You know, human compassion isn’t just reserved for the handicapped and Consumerist readers. Have some compassion for the usually overworked and underpaid skycaps. If anyone should be fired, it’s those that said “it’s not my job. I called the people who are supposed to do this.” and did nothing else.

  63. Treved says:

    UGH, i can’t believe i’m sticking up for Delta at all. I’m not. How they acted was reprehensible.


    How could she book a flight with only a 35 minute connection? I’ve always been told you need minimum 40 minutes. Plus, you’re almost guaranteed to miss your connection with even that much time, when you’re able bodied. The fact that she thought she might make this connection under the best of circumstances is laughable.

    That said, everything that followed was sickening.

  64. debegray says:

    I wish I could doubt her story, but I can’t. I’ve had Multiple Sclerosis for eight years. Although I’m mobile, traveling is exhausting for me, and I can’t walk fast enough to make connections, even with my cane, so I have to rely on wheelchairs.

    I have had a similar experience on several occasions, even though we tell the airline when we book the flight that I need wheelchair assistance to make the connection (I always make a point of checking with the person at the gate when I check in to make sure that they have that noted). One time when I finally gave up and started making my way towards the next gate, an employee from another airline or the airport was going by with an empty wheelchair and took care of me.

    Being in a wheelchair can be really dehumanizing to begin with. Some airline employees have been lovely, and others have treated me as though I were a huge inconvenience instead of a passenger who is paying to make it from point A to point B and by law is supposed to be accommodated.

    You can be sure that I won’t be taking a chance on Delta.

  65. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @Treved: She didn’t book a flight with a 35 minute connection. The post clearly states her first flight was delayed.

  66. johnva says:

    @Treved: If you read carefully, she only had 35 minutes because her flight getting into Atlanta was delayed. It was originally scheduled to leave more time for the connection.

  67. blue_duck says:

    @taney71: She might not have anybody. With this logic, since she flew alone, she should be basically dehumanized and forced to crawl down a plane and into the airport… That’s ridiculous. No human decency in this story at all.

  68. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    @KeilwerthLA: …to clarify, this is not to say that I think it’s impossible that this is exaggerated but it isn’t difficult to believe either.

  69. johnva says:

    @bohemian: Depends, I assume, on how bad her MD is and what specific disease she has (“muscular dystrophy” encompasses quite a few things that are technically different diseases). But yeah, it’s entirely possible that both her arms and legs are affected severely enough that she can’t walk or wheel herself unassisted on an unpowered wheelchair.

  70. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot says:

    My heart goes out to her. There is absolutely NO reason for this to happen, and it never fails to amaze me when people see somebody needing help, they become totally devoid of any form of compassion.

    That said – I learned the hard way not to ever depend on airlines to “help” you if you have a disability. I’m deaf, and used to request the help of the employees at a given gate to ensure that I was notified when my plane began boarding, as I am unable to hear the announcements, and you CAN’T trust the flight board, as often the information is wrong or hasn’t been updated yet. Once I missed a plane because gates were changed but I was never notified. I almost missed another because they forgot which flight I was waiting for (there were three gates in the waiting area, but none had any signage indicating which flight was being boarded.) I’ve taken to befriending somebody in the waiting room who is on the same flight as I am and asking them if they would mind notifying me when the boarding calls begin. I’ve never had a problem, and have even made some friendships that way. Its sad that I have to use a service KNOWING that they will not accommodate me and to make other arrangements to ensure I actually catch my flights.

  71. johnva says:

    @Neecy: That really sucks – air travel is bad enough without that sort of hassle to deal with. Yeah, we all know the airlines can’t be depended upon to do what they promise to do. But in this case I’m not sure what else she could have done to help herself, since the airline presumably took away her wheelchair and she had to rely on them to be able to get off the plane. I have absolutely no clue why some airline employee couldn’t take 2 minutes of their time to at least help her off the plane. There is no way they are busy with anything so important that they can’t take two minutes to do that.

  72. This story does not surprise me in the slightest.

    Airline requests for assistance by the disabled are treated about as importantly as your request for a vegetarian meal – that is, not very well prioritized.

    And as the airlines have declined in quality, this problem has reached epidemic levels as shown by this story.

  73. Consumerist-Moderator-Roz says:

    @Aladdyn: Read the comment code – it’s on the front page right now, even! We don’t allow posts that only serve to blame the victim for their misfortune.

    Posting helpful comments is fine, but it does not sound like you know enough about the situation to be helpful.

  74. jenjen says:

    Most of the wheelchair crew I see at the airports I use frequently are from a contract company, not the airlines. I would guess that from the door of the plane onwards, the airlines are not responsible for – and possibly not even allowed to – provide in-airport wheelchair transport. Last Christmas I was flying out of Seattle on a small plane from one of the satellite terminals and we were delayed for 45 minutes because on the plane that we were supposed to be leaving on there was a guy who needed wheelchair assistance and it took that long for the airport wheelchair company to send someone out. It was completely ridiculous – the gate crew were livid and were calling every 5 minutes but we were all stuck waiting. I felt so bad for the guy sitting all alone on the plane with the flight crew, nobody able to do anything for him. At least I think they treated him OK.

  75. johnva says:

    @jenjen: Well, if these contract companies are not doing a competent job, the airlines need to end their contracts and bring the job back in-house. Outsourcing is no excuse, but I can see how it could lead to further problems with coordination.

  76. Diningbadger says:

    What happened to human decency? My God, who the hell have we become that another person has to beg to get a little help? I’m just discussed!

  77. tinyrobot says:

    Oh. Man.

    This is one of the saddest, most inhumane accounts I’ve heard in 2008 about airline service atrocities. I left a jacket in an airport in Japan by mistake and it was hand delivered by courier to me on the other end of the country the next day. And here in US and A we can’t find one generous (or even human) soul to help push a wheelchair to another terminal because “it’s not their job?”

    America is starting to sound more and more third world – the inability to cope with simple situations requiring only a shred of compassion and common sense is baffling.

  78. kristin876 says:

    I’ve only seen this kind of behavior from USAirways personally, though it makes me wonder about the industry as a whole – my grandma is blind and has some mobility issues stemming from sciatica and a bad back. For these reasons, when booking a flight, she requests wheelchair service to transport her from her gate to the arrivals area where someone will be waiting for her. My home airport has a little indoor car with a driver who usually transports older people who are still mobile enough to climb in across terminals, but my grandmother can’t do that.

    Last time she visited, I got admitted to the gates by telling the ticketing agents I had to pick up a blind passenger who was uncomfortable waiting at the gate for help without a relative. When she arrived, a skycap delivered the wheelchair after about fifteen minutes but refused to push her all the way to the baggage claim, because there was one of those car pickups nearby and he insisted she use it. I watched her explain her inability to board it and he wouldn’t drop the idea. At this point, I got irritated, took the wheelchair from him, and told him I’d push it. Apparently this was against some kind of liability policy, but I argued my case and won, and he gave me very strict instructions about where to drop it off when I was done. I hate to think what would have happened there if I hadn’t made them admit me to the gates.

  79. katylostherart says:

    @forgottenpassword: understaffed and overworked? sure, but they apparently had time to wait around complaining that no one brought a wheelchair and debating who would. if you have time to stand there, you have time to go and get the wheelchair yourself.

    i’ve seen wheelchairs sitting ate the gates just waiting as spares in every airport i’ve been in (and that’s quite a few). there’s no excuse for this. i’m sure at least one flight attendant or someone from the home crew in delta KNEW where in that airport there were wheelchairs. i’m sure they could’ve even stopped one of the security guys usually wandering around on golf carts to give this woman a ride. hell i’ve gotten a ride and all i had were crutches, not muscular dystrophy.

    there really is no excuse for this and it is the airline’s fault.

  80. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    My wife is a paraplegic. Before we met she was flying on a regional prop plane from a small airport to Houston. The ground crew seemed very put out out to bring the lift. One told another well within my wife’s earshot “Lazy, its just a couple of steps!”. This was on Continental’s regional carrier.

  81. @KeilwerthLA: “I find it hard to belive that someone dragged themselves from the gate to the curb without anyone causing a stir.”

    I fell down an entire flight of stairs and more than 200 people went by conscientiously avoiding looking at me so they didn’t have to help. After recovering my senses (my brains being well and truly rattled by such a fall), I had to drag myself to get help, this being a pre-cell-phone era. And, no, I could not walk after the fall.

    Fortunately far more common has been the situation where I tripped or slipped and half a dozen people came to help me up and see if I was okay. But, yeah, sometimes people friggin’ suck.

  82. Not Alvis says:

    “I was given a meal voucher for my INCONVENIENCE but could not purchase any food because again there was no one to bring me to an eating establishment”

    Once she had the wheelchair, and the voucher, why didn’t she wheel on over to the food court? I really don’t see how it would be the airline’s responsibility to push her around.

  83. CyrilNuddleman says:

    If I were a Delta employee and came across this situation, there is not
    doubt in my mind that I would personally assist her, even it meant carrying
    her on my back, to the gate. Anyone who thinks otherwise is non-human and
    deserves pain.

  84. maztec says:

    Not as bad as Kitty Genovese – but, again, just shows how much people are heartless bastards. The problem is those people are more afraid to lose their jobs for not being where they are “supposed to be” than to help someone out who is in need.

    This is what happens when we focus on the “bottom line” rather than “human dignity”. This type of stuff happens all of the time – I know very few people who will go out of their way for someone else. Then again, I know that when I have, about two out of three times I am given a curt “No Thank you” or a lecture on “do you think I look like a gimp?” … Always nice to know how appreciated help is.

    However, I was slightly confused by one detail in the story (my apologies for nitpicking, but I am literally confused and trying to figure it out still):

    “I was given a new boarding pass for a flight expected to leave at 12:55 AM.”
    “The flight I was transferred to was supposed to leave at 10:22 PM but was delayed until 1:30 AM.”

    They transferred your flight twice, to a separate time because they could not move you around quick enough?


  85. katylostherart says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: a 70 year old man was hit by a car in hartford, ct and people just stood there doing nothing.

    people DO NOT CARE about the stranger. women got taught to scream “fire” instead of “rape” because no one would help them. people ignore domestic disputes even when there’s screaming. people ignore someone hitting a child in public. people ignore someone bleeding and laying on the ground.

    @Clold: muscular dystrophy causes motor skill problems similar to advanced parkinson’s disease. the chances are that she had the actual strength to wheel herself, since she didn’t have the strength and/or coordination to walk, are pretty slim. and before you say something about her being able to crawl, there’s a very large difference in what it takes to crawl vs what it takes to walk, for evidence look at babies.

    she wouldn’t have needed the meal voucher if they had just sucked it up and had someone go and get the wheelchair to take her to her connecting flight. they made her ability to get a meal into their problem.

  86. debegray says:

    @Clold: She didn’t have a broken leg, she has MD. Chances are that she can’t push a non-motorized wheelchair herself.

    No, the airline did not have a legal responsibility to get her food for her. But hey, here’s an idea! How about one of the employees actually doing something that is not their responsibility to aid a customer who can’t easily do it themselves, especially since she wouldn’t have been sitting there waiting if they hadn’t screwed up?

    As America ages we’ll see this type of situation more and more. Airlines had better get their act together or they’re going to get hit with a hell of a lot of lawsuits.

  87. create says:

    if i was a passenger on this flight and had seen/heard this going on i would have helped her myself

    this is just insane, i cannot believe people would treat someone like this, its really just sad

  88. drjayphd says:

    @katylostherart: Technically, several people did call for help right when it happened, as far as I recall. Could be wrong, though.

  89. snapdoodle says:

    i should be able to dig this

  90. snapdoodle says:

    whoops i’m a lame brain.

  91. snapdoodle says:

    whoops i’m a lame brain

  92. It’s possible that all the other passengers had already exited the plane, especially if she was waiting for half an hour for a wheelchair to arrive.

  93. thelushie says:

    @katylostherart: It is called the Bystander Effect and it is a shame. People don’t intervene. My first thought was “Where are all the other passengers? Watching eating their bag of Cheetos?” Regular people need to start stepping up and helping others. This is a sad commentary on our society when she could not find one person to wheel her over to the food court. I wonder how many people were already on the way to it?

    Must be nice to be able to say “It isn’t my job.” That will not work in alot of workplaces. Many are cross-trained in a variety of jobs and it is their job. Welcome to the 21st Century Workplace!

  94. jcf70816 says:

    The people that push the wheelchairs at airports are NOT employed by the airlines, but by companies contracted by the airport. The contract company is who the complaint letter should be written to.

  95. verdantpine says:

    Delta lost another customer here. My understanding is that they’ve been near the bottom of the barrel performance-wise for some years.

    @forgottenpassword: I’ve been in these situations too. I’d choose to take the hit and do the right thing even if it meant a boss chewing me out later on – down the road, that person being mistreated could be my elderly dad, or a sick friend, or me. Also, I like to think it’s part and parcel of being a human being.

    No excuse for this, or the other examples given (such as the woman whose paraplegic condition was described as “lazy”).

    Reminds me of this story – Reverend Kenneth Davis had a stroke in an Florida airport last year. He was apparently left outside for two days without anyone doing anything. – []

    I think this is evidence that our society has become more narcissistic … and since self-absorption and self-pity doesn’t make anyone happy, more and more of us are taking it out on each other, including by ignoring basic common sense and decency.

  96. thelushie says:

    @maztec: Police were called during that horrid attack.

  97. krispykrink says:

    I stopped flying several years ago and will never set foot onto a commercial airline again.

    I feel bad for this Gal as I have a friend that is disabled and he was treated pretty much the same way as her. All I can say is, in the future DO NOT fly alone! You can’t depend on anyone at the Airport for anything. If you were shot and laying on the floor, they’d either let you bleed out, or call the cops over who will then Tazer you for not complying with there orders to get up. People with any sort of medical condition should never fly alone.

  98. Julia9999999 says:

    If I was an airline employee, and I knew/assumed there would be some sort of disciplinary risk to help a person, once they started CRAWLING, I would say, “Screw this, I am helping this person, I don’t care what happens!” How those people sat there and watched that lady on her hands and knees is beyond my comprehension. I would also help to avoid a legal situation as well. People need to be trained to diffuse situations at the lowest level possible, not let it escalate, unless it’s beyond their power. I have worked in the customer service industry all my life and I constantly do things that are “not my job”, but I do it out of pride and willingness to help people. It’s not difficult and I find that being resourceful and helpful makes me feel good, too.

  99. johnva says:

    @jcf70816: Disagree. Delta contracted with the wheelchair company, and it’s Delta’s responsibility to make sure they do their job. It’s not the public’s job to understand or care about Delta’s internal business arrangements. Plus, I’m sure the contract company fears pissing off Delta a lot more than they fear a member of the public.

  100. floraposte says:

    I suspect that this is one of those interface problems, and that she fell in the gap between the airport’s assistance and the airline’s. Which completely shouldn’t happen, but it’s a big weak spot in the machinery. I am wondering about the stairs, a little–is it possible that it was a jetway and not stairs and that the paraphrase misphrased? It doesn’t make a huge difference in the end; I’m just curious.

    I think neecy has the best advice for similar situations: to try to get some help from another passenger. Ideally, it’d be somebody you’ve had a chance to scope out a bit before trusting them at this level of vulnerability, but there are a lot of helpful people in the world, and people often have extra time on layovers that they’d be happy to be generous with. This wouldn’t have gotten her off the plane, and I’m not sure if she was ever close enough in a gate area to actually talk to another passenger, unfortunately, but if she’d connected with a seatmate she might have been able to have somebody advocating for her at the gate while she was stuck waiting on the plane, at least.

  101. johnva says:

    @floraposte: I suspect it’s an interface problem, also, probably exacerbated by outsourcing of services. But regardless of what happened I think the airline is the one ultimately responsible.

  102. Scuba Steve says:

    @joellevand: I know, but someone’s responsible for this. Perhaps “fired” isn’t the right word, but the people who should have been there should be punished. Along with the people who were there, but did nothing.

    What happened was a complete lack of customer service. And it will continue to happen so long as people are disconnected so much from others that they stop treating people as human beings.

  103. edrebber says:

    Depraved indifference is a criminal offense. Julianna should contact the district attorney in Atlanta and lodge a criminal complaint. It’s a simple matter to find out who was on duty.

    The employees had a duty to help the passenger or call an ambulance. The law doesn’t allow you to watch a handicapped person crawl around on the floor.

  104. Pithlit says:

    @drjayphd: No, you aren’t wrong. A reporter wrote that no one called the police, and the public reacted in outrage, and it has since become a famous case for that reason. People still mention it as proof that our society is in decline. Neighbors interviewed since have said that they felt wrongly maligned because of that story, and it’s unfortunate. I’m glad you mentioned that. I try to also mention that neighbors actually did call the police whenever that story comes up.

  105. Youthier says:

    As for no one assisting Julianna as she was crawling, I would think the fact that it’s 3 AM (not a hugely busy airport time, no matter where you are) plus the fact that people are completely self-absorbed makes it pretty plausible to me.

    Nothing too much more to add other than ick. I often fly between two regional airports for work and Delta was my preferred choice of those available. Ugh, not anymore.

  106. itsgene says:

    It’s likely that she could not use a manual wheelchair — with MD, muscles atrophy and she may not have had the necessary strength to wheel herself. This seems to be the case, reading between the lines.
    This makes traveling by plane exponentially more difficult. If one wishes to take an electric wheelchair on the plane, first the batteries have to be removed then the chair is stowed in the hold without them. You have to have batteries available at the destination because they can’t be flown in the plane. So, until the chair is put back together, you are at the mercy of people who will push you in a manual chair, which is often a difficult surrendering of independence. This is especially bad when you’re at the mercy of busy or otherwise uncaring airline employees who take for granted the ability to walk to the bathroom or the snack bar.

  107. mythago says:

    @jenjen, you know, @mizmoose already posted a link to the applicable regulations. For example, “Airlines must provide enplaning, deplaning and connecting assistance, including both personnel and equipment.” It doesn’t say “If airlines contract out this obligation, and the contractors don’t show up, the airline employees may instead sit around on their asses complaining about whose job it is.”

    Geeziz. If anyone is really wondering why some people do not stop to help others, some of the commenters rushing to excuse Delta and blame the victim provide all the examples you need.

    I *almost* booked a Delta flight on my last business trip, but took Southwest because it was slightly more convenient on the leg out. I’ll never, ever be booking Delta again, and will let them know that.

  108. tossil says:

    I’ve been a reader of this site for a long time but have never created an account do to the fact that I’ve never had anything to say. That was up until I read this. How could such a gross incompetence on the part of so many people be associated with an international brand. This is beyond unacceptable and it sickens me to think that there are people out there that have such a defect in their personality that they would neglect a person who so obviously needing assistance.

    One wonders how their willingness to help other would be transformed if they had to go through just one day while in the shoes of a person of need.

    Shame on you. *shakes my head*

  109. tossil says:

    I’ve been a reader of this site for a long time but have never created an account do to the fact that I’ve never had anything to say. That was up until I read this. How could such a gross incompetence on the part of so many people be associated with an international brand. This is beyond unacceptable and it sickens me to think that there are people out there that have such a defect in their personality that they would neglect a person who so obviously needed assistance.

    One wonders how their willingness to help other would be transformed if they had to go through just one day while in the shoes of a person of need.

    Shame on you. *shakes my head*

  110. nsv says:

    The last time I flew (this month) I wore huge ugly prescription knee braces and walked with a cane.

    TSA treated me like dirt, but the airline folks went out of their way to help me. Twice employees with empty wheelchairs detoured to ask if I needed help, and other employees stopped several times to help me with my bags.

    Of course, this wasn’t Delta.

  111. ZahraBachoo says:

    its not my job isn’t an excuse… i’ve made it clear to my employees that if
    i ever hear one of them utter something that sounds like “thats not my job”
    then they had better start looking for a new one… that kind of behavior is
    typical of people who choose the easy path, and let others make decisions
    for them. those people have my sympathy though, because it isn’t easy
    functioning as a peon. then again, i’ve worked really hard to develop a
    career that provides me the lifestyle that i want to have, and i understand
    that some people don’t care to better their situation… and even worse,
    that there are people who want a better situation, and are aware of the
    steps necessary to have that life, but are unwilling to do the things that
    they have to do, to get there… and its not that i think that i am a
    better person for doing what it takes… but i definitely have a better job
    for having put forth that effort.

  112. katylostherart says:

    @drjayphd: if you’re talking about the man that got hit in hartford, apparently a cop only showed up because he was on his way somewhere else, but not because he had been called. either way, no one was bending down and helping him, or even stopping traffic to make sure he wasn’t struck again. but they did stop to take a look at him laying there.

  113. katylostherart says:

    @Pithlit: i stand partially corrected.

  114. tinmanx says:

    Do airline employees get punished for helping or something? I’ve heard this “it’s not my job” excuse before at the airport.

  115. HClay says:

    Having met quite few mouthbreathers who try to pass themselves off as actual human beings, I believe that this actually happened to her. I sympathize, as I have fibromyalgia… not as bad in that it’s not a progressive illness, but given that so few people truly know much about it, and its often deceptive outward appearance, I know how hard it is to get assistance… even when I’m in full body musculoskeletal pain, weak off my ass, pressure sensitive, and dealing with any other number of the symptoms. Air travel, as I found out, seems to aggravate the joint pain so severely that I’m in no shape to walk off the plane when it lands, even if I was okay walking on.

    Luckily, I fly with Westjet, which is a discount coach airline in Canada (I believe they hope to branch out to the USA). Despite the loud children on my long-weekend flight, all of the Westjet staff were as pleasant and accommodating as the company claims they strive to be. They really went the extra mile with wheeling me where I needed to go and switching me to a more comfortable seating arrangement when I needed it. Delta could learn a thing or two from them.

  116. I’m with neecy. As a hard-of-hearing person who must fly often for business, I know first-hand how illusory ANY idea of “assistance” will be when faced with gate agents.

    I will approach the agents, tell them, “I am hard-of-hearing and cannot understand boarding announcements. I am sitting [pointing] THERE, and if there is a change to this flight, would you please let me know about it?” Then I go sit and stare at them from the closest possible location.

    Which has gotten me absolutely nowhere a time or two. People with normal hearing can hardly make out gate announcements; those of us with a disability find it impossible.

    Like neecy, I ask other passengers to advise me about announcements, and have always had a fairly positive response. I’m also alert and pay close attention to what is happening at the gate.

    But it is tense and a little bit frightening. Still, I travel.

    What steams my clams is having to deal with TSA when you can’t hear. Even though I carry a card to present to them [I AM HARD OF HEARING!!!] and TELL them, “Talk to the eyes, because the ears don’t hear you!”, I routinely have to cope with two responses.

    First, I’m asked, “Who are you traveling with?” DUH … I guess the hard-of-hearing are so stupid that they can’t travel alone?

    Second, doesn’t matter what I say, but when I’m pulled out for secondary screening (carry lots of tech, don’t you know), the screeners TALK TO MY BACK. Makes it very hard to cooperate. I just repeat, like a robot, “I want to cooperate. I am hard of hearing. I read lips. You need to face me to give me instructions. I want to cooperate …”

    And it’s getting worse, sorry to say.

  117. nyaz says:

    All this to get to West Palm Beach. What a waste of effort.

  118. QuorraKolles says:

    This past week, on my flight home from work, I witnessed a similar
    incident. A handicapped elderly lady, sat in front of the gate
    without someone to push her because there was no help available. The
    lady at the counter, not her job apparently, did not lift a finger to
    help her other than to tell her over the loudspeaker that she had 5
    minutes to board before the gate was shut.

    I didn’t even know her, but I felt bad, and helped her into the plane.
    The flight attendant and pilots didn’t recognize me as an airline or
    airport staff member, mentioned that I was waiting for a delayed
    flight home, and that the least they could do was to show her some
    respect and treat their (remaining) customers with class. They didn’t
    apologize to the lady at the time, and got me a drink voucher at one
    of the restaurants for being a good Samaritan.

    The voucher infuriated me more than anything, because I would have
    gladly left without any reward if they at least would treat the
    disabled passenger with respect. Although it was not a Delta flight,
    I still wrote to the airline in question (Hint: they have airways in
    the united states).

    I can only hope that if I were in her shoes that someone would do the
    same for me. As for the poor person in this article, I hope justice
    is served.

  119. Aisley says:


    Chune, you are so right! This is just repulsive! How dare a suspected human being treat another one like an old shoe? If you’re late for work and you call to ask me to please go ahead and do the presentation you were supposed to give to the high level customers, THEN I can tell you “that’s not my job” because I’m receptionist, not your collegue. That a being in such situation answers like that to a person in need is telling me that yeas they’re a being, but not human. Shut, it is a matter of decency. If you don’t want to be decent, then just do it out of pitty for the poor woman, BUT DO IT.

    What would have happened if that woman results to be the CEO wife or mother? I wan to hear your answer, Richard Anderson you attempt to CEO.

    And to all those that dare to say “that’s not my job”, may this never happen to you, but if it does, may you live the rest of your life pained that you treated a poor woman like that.

  120. zed0 says:

    that is absolutely terrible
    Delta, take responsibility for this and admit fault.

  121. superlayne says:

    @tinyrobot: It’s because Americans have no sense of honor.

  122. synergy says:

    If she did have to crawl anywhere, that’s just insane and the employees should pay for it for not helping her and not being competent human beings.

    On the other hand, is there something about airport wheelchairs that prevents a person from wheeling themselves wherever they need to go? I’m assuming that since she could crawl, according to her, she had use of her arms/upper body.

  123. IssaGoodDay says:

    I think the problem is that with almost every other industry, you can pay a premium – large or small – to receive a higher level of service. With airlines, the only way to receive a higher level of service is to fly business class all the time, and that is prohibitively expensive. If I had the choice between paying $400 for a flight and being treated like cattle, or $500 for a flight and being given some modicum of respect, I would pay $500 every single time. I know there are all sort of reasons why that wouldn’t work in the airline industry, but it at least makes my brain feel better as to why we all try to give airlines as little money as possible.

  124. MomInTraining says:

    After having missed my Delta connection in Atlanta on July 21, I fully believe this woman’s account. The Delta employees in Atlanta simply do not care about their customers. Late flights and disrupted travel are so routine to the Delta employees there that no one matters. They don’t apologize for delays, and they truly have no compassion for anyone. They routinely treat people there like they are less than human, but this situation takes that a step further.

    What is most frustrating to me is that Delta will eventually get close to going under and will request a bail out from the federal government claiming that the high cost of fuel drove them out of business. And we, the taxpayers, who they treated so poorly will give them even more money. Delta, like any other business who provides terrible customer service, should fail.

  125. jsmith95123 says:

    There is hope…My senior citizen husband was supposed to be met at Phoenix airport by an attendant with a wheelchair to take him to his connecting flight. After waiting some time, the co-pilot on his flight searched out a wheelchair and made sure he was helped to the very distant terminal and made his connection on time. This was certanily “not his job”. My husband and I are grateful for his kindness.

  126. @floraposte: She had to use the stairs. The plane was not directly connected to a gate. She writes this specifically in the first part of her letter, which I edited for length.

  127. cyr3n says:

    what a horrendous story! However, I can’t imagine why a handicapped person would electively travel alone on America’s most craptastic customer support case study. It’s not her fault that she was surrounded by a bunch of narccistic pricks.. they (airline corps) don’t pay their employees enough to care. It’s really a shame that people have lost all sense of pride and dignity towards the jobs they do for fellow humans. As someone mentioned before, this symptom is pervasive in our society.. the disconnect is huge.

  128. Aladdyn says:


    @Aladdyn: Read the comment code – it’s on the front page right now, even! We don’t allow posts that only serve to blame the victim for their misfortune.

    I have read it and i challenge you to expand on how my comment violated it. I stated that i didnt think that airlines are responsible for the care of disabled ppl who are not on their plane.

    And I stated my desire to know if ppl are allowed to bring their own wheelchair onto the plane and if so, why someone who needed one would not have one.

    This is not blaming, its asking, and someone on the forum answered my question stating that ppl are not allowed to use their own wheelchairs on the plane.

    Posting helpful comments is fine, but it does not sound like you know enough about the situation to be helpful.

    This would apply to 99.9% of the comments on any post here

  129. Fly Girl says:

    @Aladdyn: I haven’t sorted through all the comments yet, but I think you had perfectly valid questions/comments and, in fact, the person who “answered” your question by telling you that people are not allowed to use their own wheelchairs on planes was 100% mistaken.

    People who have wheelchairs bring those wheelchairs all the way up to the door of the aircraft. At the door, they are either placed on an aisle-chair (a little wheelchair that can fit down the aisle of the plane) or they walk (with assistance) to their seat. The process can take a while, which is why people with wheelchairs are boarded before everyone else.

    Once the person in question is on board the aircraft, the wheelchair is gate checked. Gate checking is when the item is taken from the jetway and placed directly into the cargo hold and then, when the plane lands, brought from the cargo hold back up to the jetway. It’s the same thing that happens with strollers and car seats that are brought to the gate.

    So, the only time a wheelchair bound person is without their wheelchair is when they are actually on the plane– the rest of the time they’ve got it with them.

    And, if you read the article closely, you can see that the OP was NOT wheelchair bound– she “crawled” from the airport to the shuttle at 3:30 am because she didn’t have a ride… So, that means she didn’t check her wheelchair with her luggage and then pick it up at baggage claim– that means that she didn’t have her own wheelchair PERIOD.

    I, like you, am skeptical about this story and rightfully so… It just doesn’t add up. It reads like a person who missed their connection and was super delayed and is now pissed about it– rightfully so. I’ve been delayed for hours and hours, gotten in at the middle of the night, missed my ride, and had to work the next morning on two hours of sleep to top it all off. You betcha I wanted blood!

    But trying to spin this as “DELTA MAKES WOMAN WITH MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY CRAWL OFF PLANE!!!” is just plain wrong, ’cause that’s not the truth. If she was too disabled to push herself to the bathroom or the food court, wouldn’t she have had her own wheelchair to begin with?…

  130. Fly Girl says:

    @itsgene: You’re right about the electric chair thing, and when I first read this, I was completely on her side (other than the 35 minute connection– what was she thinking?!), but when I reread the email, she said that she had to “crawl” to her shuttle from the airport because she no longer had a ride. Which means she didn’t have her own wheelchair, manual or otherwise, which makes this whole story not add up…

    For people not in the know, if a passenger has an electric wheelchair or chart, it gets driven all the way up to the door of the aircraft and then taken apart and loaded in the storage hold. When the passenger reaches their FINAL destination, the chair is brought back to them right at the aircraft door. But if the passenger has a connection, they are transferred with a manual wheelchair and attendant.

    If passenger doesn’t have use of their upper body, and has a long layover, they’re pretty much screwed. Without their motorized chair, they can’t get anywhere and the airline is most definitely not paying someone to stay and push them around. *Usually* they’ll be left near a gate agent so that they can let someone know if they need something, but that doesn’t always happen.

    Generally, people in that situation travel with a friend/family member/or medical assistant. It sucks, but that’s reality…

    However, in the OP’s situation, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

  131. Fly Girl says:

    @maztec: It sounds like the new flight was SCHEDULED to leave at 10:22 pm. When they gave her the boarding pass, it had already taken a delay and wasn’t expected to leave until 12:55 am. And then, ultimately, it didn’t leave until 1:30 am.

  132. Fly Girl says:

    @blue_duck: Unfortunately, Blue Duck, that is NOT the norm. I used to work for a major airline and we could see where every single passenger was coming from, when they were connecting, and if their flight was late– no matter what airline they were coming in from. We did NOT hold flights for anyone, even if it looked like they were only going to be five or ten minutes late. Why? For starters, delays are a trickle-down problem. Once a plane takes a delay, it snowballs out of control and it’s really hard to ever make up that time. Second, it’s not fair to the other passengers. No need delaying 150 people for the convenience of 1. Most importantly? The FAA fines airlines for delays. No way in hell is an airline going to willingly take a delay for a few passengers and risk having their on-time numbers thrown off and getting fines from the FAA. No way in hell. If I held a plane for a passenger, I would have been fired. Probably on the spot.

    The person working the flight that she came in on probably saw that she only had 35 minutes to get from one end of the airport to the other AND that she was in a wheelchair. They knew she wasn’t going to make it one time, especially not if she needed help on the plane, so when it was time to close the flight, they closed it out without her. Knowingly.

    Lesson? Don’t ever book a flight with a 35 minute connection. Flights BOARD 30 minutes prior to departure and CLOSE no less than 5 minutes to departure. That means when your inbound hits the tarmac, your outbound is already boarding. Even in the best case scenario, that connection is WAY too tight. If you require ANY sort of special assistance, it’s downright impossible.

  133. Fly Girl says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: No, the little wheelchair is only used for para/quadriplegics who cannot walk onto the plane. It’s called an aislechair and it’s small enough to fit down the aisle of the aircraft, plus it has no arms on it, so it’s easier to get the passenger in and out of the chair.

    If a passenger has their own wheelchair, they HAVE to bring THEIR CHAIR all the way up to the door of the aircraft. At that point, they either walk onto the plane (with assistance) or they are brought onto the aircraft via aisle chair.

    Their chair is placed in the cargo hold ONLY for the duration of the flight and then it is immediately brought back up to the jetway at their final destination AND at all connections. The only time a person is without their wheelchair is when they are on-board the aircraft.

    So… If the OP needed the airline’s chair, that means she did NOT have her own wheelchair.

  134. Fly Girl says:

    If the story we’re got here was completely true, this would be DISGUSTING. But… I’m pretty sure there are some massive holes.

    My biggest problem with it? If the OP was disabled enough that she couldn’t walk to the bathroom or food court and couldn’t push her way around in the airline-owned/operated wheelchair, why didn’t she have her OWN chair? Preferably a motorized chair? How does she go to the normally go to the bathroom and get food to eat? Usually when people are *that* disabled, they’ll have developed the ability to take care of themselves and, if they can’t, they’ll plan for the trip and make reasonable accommodations.

    I know that she didn’t have her own wheelchair because she said that she had to “crawl” from the terminal at 3:30 am to the shuttle because she didn’t have a ride– which also means that at some point she DID have a ride and that they decided not to come and get her because she got in so late. That part bothers me, too– you want more service from the airline than even your friends are going to give you? I mean, if you’re so disabled that you can’t push yourself in a wheelchair or walk to the bathroom, how are you able enough to crawl to the shuttle to get home? And if you’re that disabled, and unable to move around on your own, why wouldn’t your friends and family exhibit a little compassion and come and get you, 3:30 am or not?

    Generally people who do NOT use a wheelchair in their day-to-day life will request a wheelchair at the airport to help out with what can, at times, be lengthy hikes. Those are usually elderly people or people dealing with a temporary disability (broken leg, etc…). Those chairs are intended for people who might have a hard time walking the distance that is sometimes required at the airport, but they aren’t a substitute for a motorized chair or an assistant, if that service is required by the passenger.

    The airlines are obligated to get you from Point A to Point B and that INCLUDES getting you to, from, and between your gates. That does NOT include transporting you to the bathroom, to get food, etc…

    That is what nurses and medical travel assistants are for. (They exist. Quadriplegics who have to travel alone use them all the time.) It is generally assumed that if you are one of the people that doesn’t NORMALLY use a wheelchair but got one just for the airport, you are at least mobile enough that you can get to the bathroom on your own. And if you’re always wheelchair-bound then, of course, you can get yourself to the bathroom, to the food court, etc…

    In addition, like some other people already pointed out, a 35 minute connection is pretty unrealistic even in the BEST of scenarios. Airlines advise passengers of this, and request that people requiring special services plan accordingly. If the OP was requesting a wheelchair transport, she knew she’d be the last person off the plane. And she knew she was flying into ATL, a massive airport and DL’s hub. A sprint between the two ends of the airport can take a half-an-hour. Why, in God’s name, would you EVER book a 35 minute connection, knowing that this is the case?

    It’s not unusual for there to be a shortage of wheelchair porters at an airline’s hub. Some flights have ten people on it all requesting transport, some have none. There are times when you’ve got 15 porters in one of the airport and it takes a while to get someone over to the other end. It was only 35 minutes from the time her flight landed until there was a porter there– that’s really not unreasonable, especially since it takes about 15 minutes to 25 minutes to get everyone off of a plane. She really only waited about 5-10 minutes for the porter to get there– and then decided not to wait?…

    Plus, there were stairs. That adds time onto the process, as they usually have to wait until EVERYONE else is off and then MOVE the stairs and drive a cherry picker type thing over to the plane’s entrance. That can cause additional delays, especially if the cherry picker is being used somewhere else or if there are ramp delays– you have to get clearance before you just start moving around equipment.

    If she was so disabled that she couldn’t get a drink of water or push the wheelchair to the bathroom, I just don’t understand how or why she’d crawl down a bunch of stairs. Honestly, I think they ONLY thing that Delta did wrong in this situation was when the flight attendants encouraged her to get off of the plane by herself. I fully believe that happened because I have seen it happen before. They cannot leave until all of the passengers are off of the plane and so, if they think someone is “faking” their disability, they’ll attempt to talk them into just walking off the plane rather than waiting for a wheelchair. And that’s just wrong.

    Other than that… There’s the standard “I missed my flight and got home eight hours later than I’d planned to” complaint, which is valid but not really newsworthy and, really, the other part to take from this is a lesson in personal accountability…

    I don’t know why we expect more from the airlines than we do any other service. We don’t expect grocery store clerks to push us around and take us to the bathroom, we don’t expect bellhops to wheel us to a restaurant. Why is air travel so different? They get you on the plane, they get you off the plane, they get you between the planes. And that’s where their responsibility ends. Everything beyond that is a special service and, as such, costs money.

  135. Hey people! You shouldn’t blame the airline! You should blame the folks who work FOR the airline.

    It’s not Delta’s fault they hired employees who refused to do their jobs well!


  136. Thorgryn says:

    @SteveZim1017: Other disabilities that they could exploit? Hmm, the blind, put them near an air conditioner, shake their chair a bit, and tell them that they are now at the new location, just think of the fuel savings!

  137. Angryrider says:


    Remember this? If only we bothered our Congressmen and Senators, this women will get her justice. But she won’t because consumers have no rights in these cases.

  138. Draconianspark says:

    JIC it hasn’t been said, the airport at west palm beach ( PBI ) is completely dead after around 11 PM; you can literally be in the terminal concourse completely alone, no security, no employees, maybe a few sleeping travelers.

  139. theysaidwhat says:

    This is a tragic story. Frankly, I am surprised that bystanders did not offer to help!

    I had the misfortune to fly Delta twice a week between Atlanta and LGA for 10 months, and I am sad to say that this story does not surprise me. Delta has the rudest staff that I ever have had the misfortune to meet. And believe me, as a 100K mile per year or more traveler, I do know how to sweet talk my way onto flights, into first class, etc. The issue is that Delta employees are unhappy and some of them take it out on their clients.

  140. LuvJones says:

    And Jesus/Buddah/Allah (insert your own) wept…just wrong on so many levels.

  141. TheAlphateam says:

    I have never seen a bunch of people that worked harder at not working than the Delta employees in Atlanta

  142. Wormfather is Wormfather says:

    @Consumerist-Moderator-Roz: /clap…and not the STD

  143. bmoredlj says:

    Thinking like a Delta spokesperson, I’d probably respond to this story with a statement containing the words “we’re committed”. A lot. In fact, the whole sentence should be made up of “We’re committed to”.

    We here at Delta are committed to being committed to being committed to being committed to to being committed to being committed to to being committed to being committed to to being committed to being committed to to being committed to being committed to to being committed to being committed to to being committed to being committed to to being committed to being committed to pushing a disabled woman off a plane so that we can take off, but bickering about the extent to which we physically handle her.

  144. bmoredlj says:

    “As an apology for your ordeal, you may check one additional bag at a discount of 50% of our current $50 fee. We hope you’ll remain committed as we are to being committed to offering you the most committed service in the skies. Committed.”

  145. psyop63b says:

    Doesn’t this situation reflect a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act?

  146. Consumerist-Moderator-Roz says:

    @Aladdyn: If you want to debate moderator actions, email me. It’s off topic and we’re not going to do them in threads.

  147. hexychick says:

    @Fly Girl: You REALLY need to read the article before writing novel-like comments. Her flight was delayed which is what caused her to only have a 35 minute window between flights. This was not her fault in anyway as she had to rely on both the airport and Delta to get her to and from the flights. Try reading Delta’s own webpage [] about the wheelchair service. More detailed information here: [] but I’ll simplify it for you: They make you check your own wheelchair at the ticket gate (which means prior to security) and then they provide transport that you are not required to request in advance, but they like it if you do. They also say they are more than happy to accommodate your needs and help you out. I’d put money on the fact that she had her own wheelchair but was left stranded because guess what? If your flight is delayed and you miss a connecting flight then the wheelchair you’ve checked is on that flight and not with you. The end result is simple: clearly no one helped her and she needed assistance.

    I really hope that you never have to face this kind of situation or that you never find yourself handicapped in any way, but I do hope that one day you have an ounce of sympathy and gain some perspective instead of writing ignorant comments on a website. If nothing else, try READING first.

  148. dlab says:

    Doesn’t surprise me. My girlfriend was injured on a Delta flight by a flight attendant who rammed a drink cart into her knee as fast as he possibly could (she had trouble walking for 3 days after). The crew pretended to be very nice (and then proceeded to try and get my girlfriend drunk by feeding her free drinks) until I said I wanted paramedics waiting at the gate when we arrived, after which point they did not even so much as look at us. We were told she would be wheeled out of the plane before anyone else (lie, I had to help her hop into the terminal on a single leg while the rest of the passengers filed out). Then we waited for paramedics for 45 minutes. They wouldn’t give me a copy of their report, and the Delta employees at the gate refused to give me a copy of THEIR paperwork. Basically I was told I could not have any documentation of what happened, so I took pictures of my girlfriend’s swollen knee and told the lady at the gate I was calling the police, at which point SHE said I was being unruly and said she would call the police ON ME. Long story short, nobody came, nobody gave a sh*t, and nobody from Delta even apologized. They are all bastards.

  149. floraposte says:

    @Fly Girl: As far as I know, there’s no legal or even dictionary definition for the term “wheelchair bound” that insists it means somebody who can’t crawl–after all, no wheelchair user is in the thing 24/7, which is why many people object to the term as being imprecise anyway (I loved one guy’s definition as “like the song ‘Homeward Bound,” except there’s only one verse and you never stop singing”). I don’t think the fact that somebody can crawl off the plane changes an airline’s obligation to make sure they don’t have to try. And while I get that it’s not necessarily an employee’s job to take somebody to the food court or to the bathroom, I would find that a horrifying excuse for refusing and requiring a passenger to crawl or starve instead. It sounds like her starting airport (presumably a pretty small one if the aircraft needed stairs at Hartfield) was able to help her out just fine.

  150. Nighthawke says:

    Something to chew on while steaming over Delta’s lack of compassion.

  151. ILoveVermont says:

    There are few words to describe how bad this is, many of you have posted thoughts similar to mine.

    One thing I’d like to add is this – the one employee who did treat her properly deserves a BIG BONUS, a VERY BIG BONUS. This gate attendant did her job, did it well, and treated the customer respectfully – it’s a shame that she was the only employee to do so, but she should get recognition from the very top of the organization for what she did.

  152. Hogan1 says:

    Simply put, Delta screwed up, but it’s NOT their job to chauffeur someone around to the restrooms and restaurants. They are only responsible for getting handicapped people from gate to gate and on/off planes.

    1. Delta is at fault for the breakdown in their support system (aka the wheelchair pusher guys). They should have had a supervisor take charge of the situation.

    2. Not to bash on the OP, but generally if you have severe impairments its extremely UNWISE to travel alone. While society provides many rights and conveniences to disabled, you can’t expect to be chauffeured around everywhere and need to plan accordingly.

  153. picardia says:

    @Hogan1: Actually, if the airline promises to take care of you — via Delta’s policy — you SHOULD be able to expect them to fulfill their end of the bargain. And don’t you think the woman would probably prefer not to be traveling alone? There’s not always somebody with the time/money/etc. to go where you may need to go.

    And while they may not, strictly speaking, be required to help her to food or a restroom — if you were ever in her shoes, and nobody had the decency to take these fairly minor steps to help you with basic human needs, I think you’d change your tune PDQ.

  154. Mr. Guy says:

    can we re-open the worst company in america voting? because this is kind of a 100 yard hail-mary touchdown pass, Delta FTW.

  155. johnva says:

    I think you’re making unfounded assumptions. You could be right…but I don’t think you are.
    1) Delta actually asks people to check their personal chairs as luggage at the ticket counter, assuring them that alternate service will be provided. Maybe it was naive to trust this assurance, but they did make the promise.
    2) If the personal chair was checked through, she might not have had it available at the connecting airport. It looks like that is an OPTIONAL thing, and Delta apparently discourages it especially for tight connections (due to the time necessary to stow a wheelchair in the cargo hold).
    3) If she arrived at a small airport in the middle of the night, it’s entirely possible her chair arrived hours earlier on her original flight, and was locked up in the baggage claim area when she got there, with no employee around. That could easily explain why she didn’t have her chair then, either. It’s at least as plausible as your theory that she didn’t have one at all.

    It would be nice if we could hear some more details about this from the original person. But I think until/unless we do we shouldn’t assume their story is full of lies and “holes” just based on possibly incorrect assumptions.

  156. johnva says:

    @johnva: Sorry, that comment was meant to be directed at @Fly Girl.

  157. ChipMcDougal says:

    They actual watched her crawl…how nice, Delta…

  158. stargazerlily says:

    @Fly Girl: You really know your stuff. As an alumnus of 2 legacy carriers, you are dead on. Future disabled passengers, if you feel you are not being assisted, ask for the CRO (Complaint Resolution Official) immediately. That will set a chain of events in motion swiftly.

  159. Hogan1 says:

    @picardia: You can make assumptions about wording in policy all you want, it doesn’t change the fact there are limitations on what they will and won’t do. If you think people are entitled to essentially what amounts to bedpan service everywhere they go because they are disabled, more power to you but prepare yourself for disappointment. The fact remains that it’s unwise to travel alone with you have significant disability.

  160. tasselhoff76 says:

    This is freaking unbelievable. It makes me want to never fly Delta again.

    Something has to be done to repair the airline industry.

  161. RChris173 says:

    You mentioned West Palm Beach…I’m from that area!

  162. RChris173 says:

    You should have gotten the local media like WPEC News 12 or the Palm Beach Post involved…

  163. Aladdyn says:

    @Consumerist-Moderator-Roz: I accept your apology

  164. Maribelklikklak says:

    I am appalled to have read this article. Unfoturnately, I have to
    say that with the current economic situation, the airlines are doing
    nothing more than flying the big routes and nothing else. All of the
    employees are scared to deviate from their specific assigned job
    duties because they may lose their jobs. Everybody in the airline
    industry ( except company officers) are on edge every day, the
    slightest deviation from your assigned job will be grounds for
    termination. In reality, this has been the case for atleast 15
    years, just recently has it been put in the spotlight due to the
    economic disaster our government is going through.

    There was once a time where Delta had amazing service…the flight
    crew was courteous, the drinks were free, and they actually served a
    meal that was edible. Unfortunately, the airlines like to make
    profits. The executives take huge salaries while the flight crews
    are taking pay cuts. Take a look at the salaries for pilots/flight
    attendants/ground crews…It’s sad to see how little these people
    make. Even pilots are just being taken advantage of. Making it to
    the airlines these days requires at least $100,000.00 in training and
    time flying old training aircraft that are marginally safe, only to
    be hired on and make poverty level wages for two to three years.

    So, this ranting is justified to help understand why this poor woman
    had to suffer. Do I agree with it? NO!!! However, that is just the
    way that the industry is at the moment. I beg you to try and make a
    complaint with the DOT or the FAA. It’s very difficult, and if you
    try to look for a way to file a grievance with the FAA on their
    website, it literally becomes a dog and pony show.

    I truly hope that Delta gets off its duff, rectifies this situation,
    and fires the people who should have been involved in helping this
    poor woman.

  165. For those asking “why coudn’t she have psuhed herself?” and why didn’t she have her own chair. They make you check them. They are too wide to nav the aisles.

    Ever see the wheelchairs they make you ue on the planes? There is usually one at the end of the ramp next to the place as you turn to enter.


    They are a straight back padded lawn chair, with small wheels, more like a hand truck with a seat installed on it.

    There is no side wheels for the rider to wheel themselves and they are required I believe to be pushed by airport/airline employees. They strap you in so you don’t fall over, they look to me more like a device you strap Hannibal Lechter to.

  166. she needs to contact her congressman, senator and alt hat was well, they woudl get a nice diversion and it might get somethign done.

  167. debegray says:

    To everyone who is assuming that she doesn’t really need a wheelchair since she didn’t appear to have her own, and sees that as a big hole in her story – is it possible that her wheelchair, since it’s considered checked baggage, was loaded from the plane she deplaned from directly to the plane for her connecting flight? The airline assumes that you’ll be taken care of with their (contracted) wheelchairs.

    As far as the charge that she should not be traveling on her own, well, that’s just silly. It would be wonderful if there were always someone willing and able to travel with us, but that’s not the case. I mean, should she just never go anywhere?

    I know that sometimes people want to help but don’t know what to say. If you see someone who is disabled and appears to need help, just ask them, “Can I help you with anything?” Some of them will tell you to buzz off (being disabled brings with it a hell of a lot of frustration and sometimes embarrassment), but there will be some who will be profoundly grateful. There were plenty of times that I was struggling through the airport with my cane and my bag, wishing someone who was walking in the same direction as me would offer to carry my bag for just a couple of minutes. Never once did an airline or airport employee offer, that’s for sure.

  168. scoopjones says:

    Definitely an ADA lawsuit in the making. Having escorted my own handicapped grandmother through a harrowing cross-country trip, I know you should never rely upon airline personnel to do their jobs. I think this story deserves more attention, so I’ve e-mailed a couple of the West Palm Beach media outlets and CNN about it. Hopefully Delta will be offering her more than just a meal voucher when this is all over with.

  169. Speak says:

    “I hate to think what would have happened there if I hadn’t made them admit me to the gates.”

    @kristin876: I’d like to imagine what would have happened if you hadn’t returned the wheelchair! Maybe the skycap would have been fired.

  170. jackspat2 says:


  171. Fly Girl says:

    @hexychick, and debegray, and The Cranky One and johnva:
    Thanks for the reference that just proved MY point– Delta asks that people with motorized wheelchairs *CONSIDER* checking them at the ticket counter, as they require quite a bit of extra work and (possibly) disassembly to place in the cargo hold. HOWEVER, the passenger has the right to check it at the gate if that is what they choose to do. Regardless of where the passenger chooses to check the motorized chair, it will be brought to them at the gate, which means at the DOOR of the aircraft, just like the strollers and car seats that are GATE checked.

    They do NOT request that personal manual wheelchairs be checked at the ticket counter, only state that it is available should the passenger request it. And, like the motorized wheelchairs, they are brought to the passenger at the door of the aircraft, never EVER at baggage claim– unless the passenger specifically REQUESTS that they be sent to baggage claim. (And why would they want that, knowing how easily things get lost/stolen from baggage claims?) Oh! And if the wheelchair is collapsible, it doesn’t even have to go in the cargo hold. The flight attendants will store it in their closets for the passenger, further ensuring that the person is separated from their chair for the smallest amount of time possible.

    As far as the “ticket gate” goes… Well, that’s a place that simply doesn’t exist. You claim that Delta forces you to check your wheelchair at the “ticket gate,” but no where does the policy state that. For future reference: ticket counter = pre-security, gate = sterile area.

    Perhaps YOU should read articles more thoroughly before commenting on them, because I stand by everything I said and I know that I have my facts straight.

    Text from Delta’s site:
    You can check your wheelchair at the ticket counter or the gate. We appreciate your checking powered equipment that may require disassembly at the ticket counter so we can arrange for proper handling. You may use our wheelchair equipment after checking your personal wheelchair. Detachable items such as seat cushions and footrests can be carried onboard or checked with the wheelchair in the cargo compartment.

    We will not need to disassemble your electric/battery-powered wheelchair and will leave the batteries attached if the wheelchair will fit upright through the aircraft cargo compartment door or if it can be stowed upright in the cargo compartment.

    If we do need to disassemble the wheelchair, our employees may need instructions. Attach assembly/disassembly instructions and your wheelchair’s specific battery type to the wheelchair. For help identifying your specific battery type, see Batteries below.

    You can arrange to have us check your personal wheelchair at the departing gate and return it at the destination gate when you arrive, or at a connecting airport. Let us know in advance if you prefer to use your own personal wheelchair at your connecting airport. However, you should be aware that the time between connecting flights may be insufficient to provide this service during layover, especially if disassembly and re-assembly of your wheelchair is required. If time is a factor, we recommend that you take advantage of our wheelchair service instead.


  172. Fly Girl says:

    Also: the theory that she had, and checked, a personal wheelchair, that it ended up on the flight she was *supposed* to be on, and then got locked up when PBI was closed upon arrival just doesn’t hold water.

    The airport doesn’t close until the last flight has landed– what happened to all of the other people on her flight? Baggage claim was just “closed,” so they left without their bags? Nuh uh. And don’t you think THAT would have been a part of her complaint letter, had it been the case? Because if my flight was delayed three hours and then baggage claim was just “closed” when I got there, I’d be pretty damn pissed about it– especially if I had a wheelchair that they were holding hostage.

    No, she didn’t have her own wheelchair, which begs the question: how does she *normally* get around? How is the airport any different than the mall, the grocery store, or the local Wal*Mart?

    I don’t know where they hell people are getting this idea that the OP originated in Hartford or “Hartsfield” and are then talking about the service that she must have received when she STARTED her trip… I see that someone made a comment about a collision in Hartford involving an elderly man and the name of the airport in Atlanta is HARSTFIELD, so that’s probably where the confusion came from, but, um, we don’t know WHERE she originated. And, if we did, we’d be able to get a better idea of what might have happened and how delayed her originating flight really was.

    On that note, I do *temporarily* rescind my criticism of her short connection time. We don’t know by how much her inbound was delayed, and if we don’t know that, we don’t know whether an adequate connect time was booked or not. It could have been delayed by five minutes, it could have been delayed by five hours. That’s something that wasn’t *necessarily* due to any fault on the part of the OP.

    Although, I still don’t understand why she got off of the plane alone. I believe that the flight attendants coerced her into doing it, but why did she agree? There was no way she would have made the flight on her own, and a wheelchair was already on its way. The OP doesn’t deny that. If she couldn’t walk to the bathroom, how did she think she was gong to sprint to her next gate?

    Story just doesn’t hold up.

  173. Jerim says:

    Isn’t it commonly accepted protocol for a person in this situation to bring someone along to help them? I am not excusing the airline, but I can’t imagine someone as completely helpless as this passenger expecting the airline to be their personal care giver. A broken arm or paralysis from the waist down is one thing, but it seems like this person was completely incapable of taking care of themselves. So why fly? I am sure there are plenty of people in the passenger’s situation who wouldn’t go on a trip without someone coming along to help. The airline should have been more accommodating, but the passenger shouldn’t just expect everyone to bend over backwards to help.

  174. ILoveVermont says:

    Having given this story some thought and thinking this is almost unbelievable, is there any independent confirmation that this is true? I googled delta/muscular dystrophy and the only sites I can find on this seem to be taking the story basically from The Consumerist. This has the smell of an Urban Legend.

  175. ChrisMike624 says:

    @Fly Girl You obviously don’t know muscular dystrophy very well. Most people with MD can still walk, but with great difficulty. The great problem with MD patients, are stairs! When she got on the plane, there was a gate and no stairs, when she arrived at the smaller airport, guess what, there where stairs and she couldn’t get down them without help, and wound up crawling.

    But if you would have read Mr. Walters comment you would have seen that he told the readers that already. But obviously you’re more concerened with getting your own selfish comments out, rather then reading them.

  176. HeatherIshaboo says:

    I’ve worked for Delta, in reservations, ticketing and as a gate agent. Each airport has a hired service (i.e. Prospect, Airserve) whose specific job is to assist disabled or elderly passengers with wheelchair or motoized cart transportation from as early as the point of check-in to as far as assisting them onto the aircraft in cases where a person is unable to walk. They also assist with unaccompanied minors, escorting them to and from their gate.
    Airline gate agents have limited time to work a flight, board it and see it off. Agents greeting a flight may be expected to move to another gate to work a different flight, and cannot stay with a passenger to see that she is taken to the bathroom and to get something to eat. Agents call the appropriate company to send staff to assist, but they can be spread thin and are not always readily available as they may be assisting another passenger.
    Obviously no one should be treated with disrespect. Don’t get me wrong, it makes me sad that this happened to this woman.
    It is unfortunate that this passenger did not have a friend or family member available to assist her. One friend or family member would have been allowed to take her to her gate and a friend or family member at her destination would have been allowed to pick her up at her gate had it been arranged in advance during the reservation & ticketing process.
    If I needed to rely on assistance to fly, I would:
    make sure there is an appropriate amount of time available between connections — 35 minutes in Atlanta is way too short — don’t do that to yourself!;
    bring a family member or friend with me to drop me off — get their security clearance at the ticket counter when you check in;
    arrange for someone to pick me up at the airport — they can get their security clearance at the ticket counter when pre-arranged and can meet the passenger at their gate;
    you can travel with your motorized wheelchair or scooter — it can be gate checked

    Also, the airline crew cannot leave the aircraft until every passenger is off. They can radio a supervisor or even the tower to get someone’s butt moving.

  177. crackers says:

    @Fly Girl: If Delta “appreciates” that people check their wheelchairs at the ticket counter (per the passage you quoted) why does it not “hold water” that this is what the OP did? And isn’t it likely/possible that her wheelchair wound up in the unclaimed baggage area, due to being on the flight that left without her? That area can most definitely “close” before 3 am.

    Mostly I’m not clear on why you’re so hell-bent, frothing at the mouth in an effort to discredit this story. If even a fraction of it is true, it’s a disgraceful way to treat someone with a disability. I find your statements more than a trifle off-putting.

  178. sadieearp says:

    As a 9/11 survivor who suffers from a broken back among other things, I can confirm after a lifetime of autonomy that being disabled brings out someone’s true character. Having experienced a number of horrific situations which left me helpless and that years ago would never have occurred, but do now on a regular basis due to the lack of society’s common sense, decency and civility, I can suggest the following. Send cc’s of the letter to the Attorney General in each state (yours and the one that Delta is based in which I think is GA) and address the letter to the AG by name. Then go to all of the national news departments of the 3 networks. Also cc the groups in Washington D.C. that address the rights of people with disabilities, C.O.R.D., etc. They will sue for you and more importantly, will get the ball rolling to change the laws since people apparently are too stupid to use common sense and take initiative when dealing with obvious issues. As for the person who suggested the disabled traveled with someone, I have a hard enough time finding people to run errands let alone travel from state to state with me. My husband died shortly after 9/11 of a brain tumor and I have no family. My landlord illegally sold half of our building (my home of 25 years) to a hotel and then began removing tenants illegally until 110 tenants had been thrown on the streets including 80 year olds. Now living in MA, the state motto is “if you’re poor or disabled, we don’t want you” so while it is easy to say travel with someone, I live in a state where they will not give me a motorized wheelchair because they think despite my on-going letters and my doctor’s that I am an ex-Marine who is a parapelgic who wants to play basketball instead of a 50+ year old woman who struggles to walk and cannot push a wheelchair up a hill. Until you lose the ability to walk or function, no one can imagine what it is like to be disabled and unfortunately you do have to rely on the kindness of strangers. There is nothing worse than spending your life working, paying taxes, being an advocate and then suddenly seeing your entire life and all of your co-workers bombed out of existence. So for those who do not understand what it is like to suddenly be unable to go to the bathroom yourself, or boil water, I suggest you try it for a week and do it alone without any family or friends around. Her situation mirrors mine a while back of being released from the hospital without my wallet, had no way to get home which was 30 miles away. After falling with my cane on the side of the road which was only 2 lanes and a speed limit of 30 mph not one person in their huge brand new SUV’s stopped to help including the police and I was in Hyannis, MA, home of Ted Kennedy. So for those who criticize or stand around doing nothing, you ought to try walking (or sitting) in someone else’s shoes first.

  179. sadieearp says:

    To those of you who have made the most incredibly insensitive comments like “find alternative forms of travel” or “no one should expect people to bend over backwards to help them” I only pray that you do not lose a foot, or a hand or the ability to walk or an eye, because what a nightmare it would be for you to be unable to open a heavy door somewhere and need help because no one should “bend over backwards”. As for alternative travel, when my father who lived in FL, a decorated WWII veteran died last year, I should have what? Taken a train down and taken my time? Jewish law demands that the dead are buried within 24 hours unless it is the Sabbath, so I should have missed his funeral because the “able-bodied” consider me to be an inconsiderate nuisance when flying because I need a wheelchair? People who believe these things only further my belief that we don’t stand a chance as a civilization and that we are definitely on the way out. Hold on to that property in Michigan. It’s going to be beach front soon because these must be the same people who do not believe global warming is real What ever happened to the 10 Commandments, do unto others… It’s a pretty sad state of affairs when those still lucky enough to be able-bodied tell those that aren’t to not impose themselves on their travel plans or miss the fact that the most gratifying part of being human is giving aid and help to those who cannot help themselves. What pathetic excuses for human beings.

  180. bwcbwc says:

    Anyone still think Freddie Prinze (Sr.) saying “ees not my yob, man” is funny? Context is everything.

  181. bwcbwc says:

    @Youthier: Having flown through West Palm Beach, I can assure you that it’s pretty empty at midnight, let alone 3 AM. I’m surprised there was a shuttle there for her at all.

    Once again, God Bless America. No one else will.

  182. XiomaraChimpanzee says:

    I had a similar problem with Delta after being assured a wheelchairs would
    be at my gates. A fellow passenger whom I did not know assisted me boarding and
    un boarding plus making my connections. Thank goodness for this Angel as
    Delta could not give a hoot that I was visibly disabled. My whole round trip
    was a fiasco. Have not flown Delta since and this was 1999. Things remain the
    same I see!

    **************Get fantasy football with free live scoring. Sign up for
    FanHouse Fantasy Football today.

  183. CaptainWesR says:

    My first wife had MD, and it progressed from a bad limp to being confined to a wheelchair with no ability to walk at all before she passed away. We went on many trips by air, and all airlines have a special wheelchair for the planes to fit down the aisles (really a reinforced hand truck with a seat and restraining belts), and at airports without jetways, the special vehicle with a vertical lift to get to the plane. This woman needs to be compensated, as the law requires the airlines to take care of them, as their own personal equipment is sent as medical luggage.

  184. ariampong says:

    The story she relates is horrible, but I’m curious how she manages to care for herself otherwise. If she can’t wheel her own chair to use the restroom or obtain food, how does she do this at home? If she needs continual round the clock nursing care, should she not travel with that care provider rather than expect the airline to act in that role? After all, the only thing they are in business of is transporting us from place to place. And I can’t imagine the airlines or the FAA would prohibit disabled people from traveling with their own wheelchairs or similar devices. What would they do when they arrived at their destinations?

  185. ariampong says:


  186. Kidnurse1963 says:

    I recently flew DELTA (May 2008), for the last time. My little girl all 35 pounds of her, flew from St. Louis to JFK/New York. The flight attendants refused to help us, when they couldn’t find my daughters bright pink infant sized w/c in the cargo hold. When we arrived in NYC they insisted that I carry my daughter down the airplane steps to the tarmac without her w/c. Then because they couldn’t find her w/c immediately, all the other passengers had to wait on the shuttle bus for us. They finally retrieved her w/c. We were dropped off in a remote area with a broken escalator. I asked the DELTA rep. where the elevator was, she said “oh I don’t think there are any in this terminal.” She then told me to carry my severely disabled child up the broken escalator steps, then she said I should leave her at the top of the escalator, on the floor by herself and then come back down the broken escalator to retrieve her w/c and carry it up the broken escalator. When another kind family on our flight heard this absurd woman they offered to help us. When I asked this DELTA person where the luggage carousel was she said “oh I don’t know.” and she walked off. We had nothing but trouble on this flight as well as our flight back home a week later, also on DELTA. The employee’s that we came across were terrible human beings, and I use the word “Human” very loosely.

  187. baristabrawl says:

    Are you kidding me with this? We live in America where you can sue for ADA violations. I effing hate Delta anyway, they are the worst airline to fly on.

    I am so afraid to fly anywhere anymore because I am scared that I would beat someone within an inch of their life. There is no excuse for behavior like this.

  188. Trent 4-EVA says:

    I’m disabled, from a spinal cord injury. I fly a fair amount, often alone. They gate-check your chair. I wouldn’t get off the plane without it. I have great luck with airlines and staff 95% of the time. The problem is, when your body is a wreck, bad times are REALLY bad! There are ppl in the airport paid to transport wheelers, just like the ones you see in the golf carts. Probably a series of balls was dropped, it surprises me a bit to read this. I hope I didn’t jinx myself w/ this comment!

  189. Trent 4-EVA says:

    @Hogan1: Bedpan service? Now that’s a nice turn of phrase. If she got stuck in an airport chair, she may not have been able to get to the bathroom w/out a push. If you get disabled, will you stay home forever, lest you need to pee? A push to the bathroom is not bedpan service.

  190. mythago says:

    @Hogan1: it’s funny, but “not to bash/blame the OP, but….” is 100% of the time followed up with a post bashing and blaming the OP. Whether or not it is “unwise” to travel alone, not everybody has the option of traveling with a companion 100% of the time. So your point is, what? She was asking for it?

  191. Trent 4-EVA says:

    @synergy: Yes, most airport wheelchairs have small back wheels, not allowing the wheeler to self-push. Same thing at hospitals, prob. prevents theft.

  192. Consumerist-Moderator-Roz says:

    @Hogan1: I have to agree with mythago here. Posting “not to bash the OP” and then proceeding to do exactly that is not a get-out-of-jail-free card.

    Don’t blame the victim. It’s as simple as that and you know the rule. Behave yourself.

  193. DerwinBuddha says:

    I’ll refrain from opining on the veracity of the story, but as someone who has Spina Bifida (I’m an incomplete paraplegic), I can relate a bit. I’ll share my flying experiences with you, see what you think.

    I’m lucky, in that I’m pretty independent. I use a manual wheelchair (I push myself) but can’t walk. I can take a few steps, but must hang onto some stationary object (e.g. a chair). I can get my own food & use a restroom independently. I’ve also learned that I have to be a “defensive flier”; traveling while disabled often leads to problems/indignities even in the best of situations.

    When I fly, I’m usually with family or friends because I fly for pleasure. However, I’ve always felt lucky that I was traveling with able-bodied people, because sometimes people simply aren’t helpful or generous. Here’s how things are supposed to work:

    Immediately after I purchase a ticket, I let the airline know that: I use a manual, folding wheelchair, I cannot walk, & I want my wheelchair to remain on the plane, as is offered. I also tell them I’ll need an aisle chair (looks like the thing used on Hannibal Lecter, only it allows me to sit) to get from the door of the plane to my seat & back. They “yes” me & I cross my fingers.

    Then comes the day of the flight. I get to security, I’m patted down (I can’t go through a metal detector); I then head to the waiting area, where I tell the ticket agent that I’ll need the aisle chair. I’m allowed to board first; I push myself down the jetway to the door of the plane. The aisle chair & two knowledgeable attendants are waiting for me; I transfer myself into the aisle chair, they cart me to my seat, and I transfer myself from the aisle chair to the seat. When we land, I’m the last one off the plane. The aisle seat scenario is played out in reverse, my chair meets me at the door to the aircraft, & I go on my merry way. Everyone is willing to help & is understanding of my needs. People don’t rush around me when it’s obvious that I need to get on first.

    Sometimes things work perfectly. Oftentimes, things don’t work as perfectly. I’ve never had them lose my chair, but I’ve had them tell me at the gate that I couldn’t have my chair stowed on board (despite the fact that I was told something else when booking the ticket). I’ve never dragged myself down an aisle & off the plane in order to make my connecting flight, but only because I was physically unable. If it was between dragging myself off the plane & missing a connecting flight, I’m not sure what I’d do – I came very close once because my originating flight was very delayed.

    I’ve had plenty of problems with aisle chairs not being there when I needed them (despite being told they’d be there). I once had to be carried down the stairs of a plane – I wasn’t informed when booking my flight that the second leg would be via a plane that would exit on the tarmac. That would have been okay if either of the lifts used to help those with mobility impairments off the plane had been operational. As it was, I had to be carried down by two employees who were none too pleased to do so. “Don’t panic, okay?”, one said. “‘Cause one lady was panicking and it wasn’t good, y’know?”.

    So. Those are both ends of my experiences with flying in the United States. Don’t ask me about commuter trains, buses & subways.

    K. Campanella
    Keep your kids safer online with Windows Live Family Safety.

  194. mizmoose says:

    OK, I posted early on about this [[]] with links to the appropriate *Federal* DOT (that’s Department of Transportation) LAWS that require airlines to help disabled people.

    I’m really, really, saddened and disappointed at the number of people who then commented, “It’s not the airlines’ job to take care of disabled people.”

    The airlines are not required to do things like help with personal care issues (feeding, toiletry, etc.). They *are* required to help with mobility. If they contract with a 3rd party company to have this stuff handled, the responsibility still lies with the *airline*.

    Sometimes I wonder about the ability of reading comprehension of way too many posters on this site. It makes me sad for the universe.

    And as for “Why doesn’t someone in a wheelchair just push themselves?” Again, people are waving their ignorance flags. People who self-propel themselves in wheelchairs are almost always in a chair that was fit exactly to their needs and specifications. You will also almost always find that they have enormous upper body strength. “Generic” wheelchairs found in places like airports (or sometimes stores) aren’t designed for self-motivation. Try it yourself, sometime. You’ll find that after about 10-15 minutes you’ll be exhausted, and your arms will be quite sore.

  195. fostina1 says:

    im glad they are treating the physical handicaps like the mental handicaps. at least its fair.

  196. chenry says:

    Bravo, Delta.

    Bravo. Do you feel big about yourself now?

  197. banmojo says:

    This story doesn’t surprise me one bit. Why would they give a shite about some handicapped lady when they haven’t given a shite about ANY of their customers for years now? I’m telling you RIGHT NOW, the ONLY way to get change will be if we can all boycott the airlines for a lengthy period. Just imagine, as I have done, that we live 100 years ago, and adjust your desires/’needs’ accordingly. Even if 30% of all Americans who will fly in the next 1 year period just DIDN’T, it would hit them very very hard. And THAT’S the only way to make ’em change – hit ’em in the pocketbook.

  198. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    according to the law:

    § 382.39 Provision of services and equipment.

    Carriers shall ensure that qualified individuals with a disability are provided the following services and equipment:

    (a) Carriers shall provide assistance requested by or on behalf of qualified individuals with a disability, or offered by air carrier personnel and accepted by qualified individuals with a disability, in enplaning and deplaning. The delivering carrier shall be responsible for assistance in making flight connections and transportation between gates.


    says right there that they are responsible in getting her on and off the plane AND in getting her to her connecting gate.

    my parents tend to book family vacations for us all and book me flights with less than two hours connecting time. considering i have MS, use a cane to walk long distances [like across a large airport, the atlanta airport is a NIGHTMARE if you happen to have difficulty with distances] and often have to sit and rest for a while after walking for a few minutes, 2 hours is barely enough time, even without delayed flights.

    but the number of times i have fallen, lost my balance, had to crawl in a public place when my legs suddenly gave out….
    lets just say i am glad to work where i do, because thursday, when it happened at work on my way to the bathroom, one of my coworkers saw it and although she was in the middle of a call and couldn’t help me herself, she wrote a note to the girl sitting next to her, who came after me to help me back from the bathroom. but i work with people who were hired for empathy.

    that doesn’t EVER happen outside of work. people just watch me. sometimes they stare. once in a while they ask what happened to my legs but i’ve never had a stranger stop to offer to help me crawl across a parking lot from the grocery store.

  199. JoshReflek says:

    When they were ‘debating’ about who would be forced to deal with the crippled woman, how the fuck does she not scream bloody murder about discrimination….

    i would be livid and on the warpath, taking employee names and demanding “your supervisor” of everyone who attempts to pass the buck until it was dealt with.

    This is insane. fuck delta.

  200. rashea says:

    I use a wheelchair because of nerve damage. I can push my chair, but I can’t push one of the airline chairs because they tend to look like this: [] and the armrests get in the way. So it’s entirely possible that she checked her wheelchair through to her final destination (I once had an airline do this even after I told them not to) and was dependent on their service, when normally she could get around. It’s also possible that by the time she got down to baggage claim the chair was locked in the “unclaimed baggage” area and she couldn’t get it. Or it’s possible that normally she could walk short distances, but that at the end of a long and hard day she didn’t have the strength left. All of these would explain why she had to crawl out of the airport at the end of the night. (And I’ve been abandoned by my rides before, so I don’t find that unbelievable)

    Sadly, I find this story very believable. I spent about 30 minutes once arguing with a flight attendant that the airline needed to bring my wheelchair to the door of the aircraft, not the top of the ramp. I can walk the length of the airplane (especially since I sit up front), but not up the ramp. The FA was insistent. Until I pointed to the law in the copy of the Air Carriers Access Act (always carry a copy when you fly). Oh, and they broke my chair, so I could also see it being possible that the woman had a chair, and it no longer functioned, but that probably would have been mentioned in the letter.

    By the way, it’s the air carrier’s access act that rules here, not the ADA. Which is good, because the ACAA has more “teeth”.

    I’ve dealt with flights where they wouldn’t let me preboard, where there were stairs that I was not informed of (I can’t do stairs), where I was left on the aircraft after the FA have left (not legal), and where I was treated as an annoyance.

    I don’t need someone to travel with me. But if they told me that they would take care of me between flights I would believe them. That includes a trip to the bathroom and a chance to get food.

    Shame on Delta! Shame on those employees!