American Airlines is looking into a passenger’s complaint that her husband’s specially made wheelchair was never loaded onto a flight earlier this month from Dallas to Minneapolis,
The carrier did not get the wheelchair to Nic and Rachel Cole until 12 hours after they arrived in Minnesota, causing the couple to miss an appointment for a final fitting for Nic’s handicapped-accessible van – and the company retrofitting the vehicle needed the wheelchair to complete the final specifications.
An American Airlines representative told USA TODAY, “We were concerned to hear about this, and our team is reviewing what transpired.”
Nic Cole has been paralyzed from the chest down since a 2017 accident. His chair was specially designed to tilt his body so that he doesn’t get pressure sores, and has braces on the sides to keep his body upright.
Rachel Cole takes special precautions when the couple travels and in this instance they went out of their way to prevent any issues by driving five hours from their home in Arkansas to Dallas, just so they could fly direct to Minneapolis without incurring a layover or changing planes.
That still didn’t prevent the mishap.
In an emotional Facebook post, Rachel wrote that she overheard the flight attendants say that the chair wasn’t loaded onto the plane, a fact confirmed when the couple used a smaller, airline-issued wheelchair to navigate the narrow aisle in the plane and get to their gate.
In fact, Nic’s wheelchair was on its way to Cleveland, and not Minnesota.
“Without his chair, Nic has ZERO mobility, ZERO independence, he has to be completely humiliated being pushed all around much like a child in a stroller in an airport full of people strapped to this ‘transport chair’ because of his immobility,” Rachel wrote.
American did put the couple up in a hotel, but Nic spent all 12 hours in bed while his wheelchair went from Dallas to Cleveland, back to Dallas, to Iowa – where it was diverted due to weather issues – and finally on to Minneapolis.
“HIS WHEELCHAIR IS NOT A MEANS OF CONVENIENCE FOR GETTING AROUND. IT IS AN ABSOLUTE NECESSITY FOR HIS LIFE. This situation should have never occurred,” Rachel wrote.
She lauded American’s team at Minneapolis-St. Paul for their help, but said it was “unacceptable and inexcusable” that personnel in Dallas – American’s home hub – allowed the situation to occur.
“YOU MUST DO BETTER,” she wrote. “There are horror stories of wheelchair damage, chairs on wrong flights, etc. and while we have had only minor difficulties for the last 2 years of flying… today that horror story became our OWN. The entire community of differently abled people do not deserve this. This is not a “checked bag” that was lost… this was his entire Mobility and independence that was lost.”
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