tiktoker says american airlines is worst to fly with wheelchair tiktok


‘I got to Orlando, and my wheelchair was not here’: Customer says American Airlines forgot to put their wheelchair on flight (updated)

‘American Airlines has given me a real f*cking run for my money.’


Braden Bjella


For decades, wheelchair users have fought to make everyday spaces more accessible. This can include adding permanent ramps alongside or in place of stairways, adjusting doorways to allow for easier entry, outfitting bathrooms and washrooms to allow better access for wheelchair users, and more.

An essential part of this conversation involves the chair itself. While many places and services may claim that they’ve made accommodations for wheelchair users, their staff may not have been trained in the proper care and maintenance of the wheelchair.

This ignorance can result in damage, which can, in turn, lead to the chair being rendered unusable. And for wheelchair users, an unusable chair is more than an inconvenience; it’s a safety hazard, a financial strain, and a restriction of personal freedom that cannot be resolved until the chair is replaced. Given the specificity some chairs require, this can take anywhere from 11 weeks to six months or more.

The risk of wheelchair damage is not abstract. In the past few years, there have been many news stories of airlines losing or heavily damaging wheelchairs. In 2019, USA Today told the story of Isabelle Briar, whose thumb was sliced open after United Airlines damaged her wheelchair in transit. In another case mentioned in the piece, U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth had her chair damaged to the point where it could no longer be moved.

In total, an Air Travel Consumer Report states that airlines lost or damaged an astonishing 10,548 wheelchairs in 2019. That number averages to 29 lost or damaged chairs every single day.

In an earlier version of that dataset, American Airlines accounted for a plurality of wheelchair damages or losses. Now, another wheelchair user is sharing their American Airlines horror story to internet virality.

Sharing their experience on TikTok, user Xavi claims that, on a trip from Los Angeles to Miami to Orlando, their chair was misplaced over the course of several flights, leading to them being stranded in the airport until their chair could arrive.

“In case anyone was wondering what airline to aggressively avoid as a wheelchair user—besides Delta, obviously—American Airlines has given me a real fucking run for my money,” they say in a TikTok with over 219,000 views.

@xxavisantiago Shout out to @American Airlines for losing my power Wheelchair, giving me the runaround, and stranding me at baggage claim with no way to move #disabilitytiktok #travel ♬ original sound – Xavi Santiago

In the video, Xavi says the troubles with American Airlines began early into the flight process.

Xavi claims that, in Miami, no one was available to load them onto the plane, forcing them to wait until the plane finished boarding before being able to arrive at their seat. Once assistance arrived and Xavi was safely boarded, they forgot to put the wheelchair onto the flight.

“So I got to Orlando, and my wheelchair was not here,” they detail. 

While the airline sorted out the issue, they put Xavi in a manual wheelchair and placed them in a waiting area until their wheelchair arrived.

“They assured me that my chair would be on the next flight coming from Miami that was leaving in, like, an hour, and that it would be here by like 9, 9:30,” they recall. “We had them make sure that they had eyes on my chair and that it was actually there. They said, ‘Yes. It is. It’s gonna be on the next flight. … We can get you a temporary wheelchair in the meantime.’”

Xavi says the wheelchair was not actually on the aforementioned flight and that they were not provided with a temporary wheelchair.

As flights came and went, Xavi says they were eventually told that “in theory, it might get on the last flight from Miami to Orlando.”

“Hopefully, because I have been stranded here for three, going on four fucking hours without a wheelchair and without a way to leave this airport,” they state.

In comments, Xavi says that they eventually got their wheelchair at 1am.

“I’m still trying to get some sort of compensation for this nightmare ordeal, esp considering I have no option but to do my return flight with them,” they wrote. “I wasn’t able to eat , it was difficult to use the bathroom, and my chronic pain was flaring hard after sitting in a transfer wheelchair for HOURS.”

Commenters chimed in to support Xavi and encouraged them to spread their message further.

“When you get your chair and finish your vacay. contact everyone, local news, your state reps, US Senators/Congresspeople,” a user wrote. “tell anyone who will listen.”

“They could have literally driven from Miami to Orlando in 4 hours,” another noted.

Update 2:32pm CT, Sept. 21: In an Instagram DM exchange with Daily Dot, Xavi offered an update on their situation.

“I wish there was more of a resolution after a few days of back and forth telephone-tagging with AA customer service,” they shared. “They offered to have a repair technician look at my chair to make sure everything is in good condition, but that would void my manufacture warranty. And they offered me and the two people in my party a 300 dollar flight credit that doesn’t expire for a year.”

“I really wanted anything else,” they continued. “I would’ve preferred a partial refund at least over flight credits. The whole process and experience has left me barely wanting to fly again, let alone with American Airlines.”

The Daily Dot reached out to American Airlines via email.

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