A disabled man claims American Airlines broke 2 wheelchairs in 3 weeks

  • American Airlines destroyed a man’s wheelchair and then severely damaged his replacement.
  • The total value of John Morris’ wheelchairs is approximately $ 65,000.
  • The airline apologized but Morris said “an apology does not solve the problem”.

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

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

Its chassis, which had already suffered damage on a previous American flight, was bent, the steering wheel was broken and it would no longer light up.

Morris, an accessible travel consultant and founder of the travel blog ChairTravel.org, agreed that the damage to his $ 40,000 wheelchair was accidental. He was forced to delay his trip while he found a replacement chair.

John Morris wheelchair, with a folded frame and a detached wheel

John Morris wheelchair, with a folded frame and a detached wheel

John Morris

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

As a result, Morris bought a new one costing about $ 35,000 and had to fly to South Florida to purchase it.

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

“The damage is quite significant. It’s bent in many places, the joystick is loose and doesn’t stay in place, there are rips and tears all over the upholstery,” he explained.

Morris, 32, said he has now struggled to control the chair and injured himself.

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

In a statement to Insider, American Airlines said, “We sincerely apologize to Mr. Morris for the damage to his wheelchair while traveling with us and our team is working to ensure a better experience for his travels. A member of our team contacted to address your concerns and apologize. “

AA plane

An American Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Nicolas Economou / Getty Image

An immeasurable weight

Morris, 32, said it was “heartbreaking” when a wheelchair was damaged. “I immediately understood what the next few months would be like, that I would not have the device that guarantees me the mobility and the opportunity to participate in society and do everything I do in life,” he said.

“The burden on the disabled person with the destruction of his chair can last for months or more, it is truly immeasurable.”

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

In an email to Insider, Senator Tammy Duckworth said, “We would never accept that airlines break the legs of 1 in 65 passengers, yet, this is essentially what is happening when 1 in 65 wheelchairs come. damaged by airlines.

I know from personal experience that when an airline damages a wheelchair, it’s more than just an inconvenience – it’s a complete loss of mobility and independence. We can’t rest until all airlines treat our wheelchairs for what they are: complex medical devices, not just suitcases to throw around. “

Reacting to the airline’s apology, Morris told Insider that “an apology does not solve the problem” and calls for new policies and a “sustainable solution” to the frequent accidents that disabled people repeatedly suffer during the flight.

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

Data from the Department of Transportation shows that an average of 35.8 wheelchairs are broken or damaged every day on US flights.

In November 2021, disability activist and wheelchair user Engracia Figueroa died after United destroyed her wheelchair. She suffered bodily injuries from the replacement chairs, which became infected and resulted in her death.

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