Delta Tied Woman to Her Wheelchair With a Dirty Blanket

A woman with multiple sclerosis makes an annual trip to Europe with her husband, generally flying Delta which provides her “with a wheelchair that has straps to help her sit up straight.”

Only for her trip earlier this month from Atlanta to Amsterdam the woman says that Delta did not make that wheelchair available to her, so they “tied her to [a different type of] wheelchair with a “dirty blanket,” bruising her in the process. The bruises she says come from how tightly she was tied to the chair, and that it hurt enough she cried.

Delta for its part says — with understatement — that it is “disappointed” she didn’t have a “satisfying travel experience.” But the airline says she’s lying, although they wouldn’t elaborate what exactly they claim isn’t true.

“While Delta always looks for ways to improve the overall customer experience, our findings do not align with details shared by the customer’s family,” they added.

Asked what Delta’s findings were, the spokesperson said they could not expand on the statement.

The family says Delta offered them 20,000 SkyMiles. Their return to Atlanta is scheduled for Monday. Delta says they plan to ensure her return flight exceeds her expectations, which based on her outbound experience likely start off very low.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The airlines aren’t caregivers. They aren’t trained or licensed to provide care for people with disabilities. They make efforts to accommodate everyone but if she needed a specific type of wheelchair did she note that in her reservation and when she checked in? Perhaps she should be traveling with an aide. Depending on the airlines to provide care isn’t a good plan.

  2. @Emily – while your comment may be a little painful to read, you are exactly correct. I agree with everything you wrote. Airline staff are not trained caregivers and as such, situations like this can occur. What if they had not secured her in the wheelchair and God forbid she fell out of the wheelchair. What then?? It’s a potential no-win situation for the airline. A travelling aide is the answer in situations like these.

  3. Why doesn’t the FAMILY take responsibility for this woman, and ensure she safely gets to her destination and back?

    Didn’t anyone in her FAMILY care enough to travel WITH her?

    Bunch of complaining babies….

  4. All the previous comments are right with one point.
    If the law requires airlines to make accomodations then whether she has family or not is inconsequential. I previously provided medical services in a nursing home and I always understood that care decisions might consider family opinion but if they ignored or worse, care must still be provided.
    While I sympathize with this disabled person it sounds like a bad day, nothing more. I doubt the “injuries” amount to anything.

  5. I don’t agree with the comments.

    If they do not have the ability to carry her correctly, or they believe the medical condition is beyond their abilities, their choice is to deny her carriage. They should say, “I’m sorry, we do not have the expertise or equipment to ensure your comfort or safety, so you cannot fly today.” And then they should take the hit for violating the ADA or their own COC or whatever else. Delta chooses their contractors and if those contractors don’t have the right equipment or cannot properly accommodate the passenger, then that’s that. Delta is at fault and they should take the legal, market and public relations risk that come with being unable to accommodate the passenger. Or maybe they put their spin masters on it and try to blame the pax by suggesting they didn’t get notice or whatever the heck companies do.

    But that’s their choice if they feel they are not competent to handle the situation properly. What they cannot do is decide to half ass it and tie a woman too tightly in a dirty blanket.

    Any right to say, “this is a medical condition that we shouldn’t have been made to deal with” goes out the window once you TRY to do something and do it poorly. Follow the ADA or don’t. Contract with those who have the proper equipment to accommodate MS pax or don’t. Carry the pax or don’t and take your medicine. But once you tie her up to an unsuitable chair with a dirty freaking blanket you have nobody else to blame but yourself.

  6. @williamc
    The very first sentence of the post mentions that she makes her annual trip with her husband.
    Someone was with her, who most likely took the picture.
    Surely you don’t think that the wheelchair attendant took that picture and gave it to her to post?

  7. Larry, there is a third (and better) way. Simply inform the passenger and secure his or her consent to these limitations.

    We need to stop believing the world is or should be perfect. Sometimes good is good enough.

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