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Disabled Man Says American Airlines Broke Two Wheelchairs In Three Weeks

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  • American Airlines destroyed the man’s wheelchair and severely damaged the replacement car.
  • The total value of John Morris’ wheelchair is about $65,000.
  • The airline apologized, but Morris said “an apology doesn’t solve the problem.”

An American Airlines passenger said the airline destroyed his wheelchair and badly damaged a replacement chair less than three weeks later.

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

Its frame, which had already been damaged from previous American flights, was bent and its wheels were broken and no longer moving.

Morris, an accessible travel consultant and founder of travel blog WheelchairTravel.org, has admitted 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 bent frame and missing wheels

John Morris


The airline provided Morris with two chairs to borrow. “It’s not designed for full-time wheelchair users,” explained one Morris. Another thing he said was, “Maybe he was 10 years old and just lacked the necessary features to prevent problems related to pressure on his body.”

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

However, after returning to Gainesville on American Airlines again with a new chair on July 26, he discovered that the new chair was also damaged.

“The damage is very serious. 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 struggled to control his chair and injured himself.

He hoped the airline would cover the cost of the destroyed chair and the repairs needed to replace it.

In a statement to insiders, American Airlines said: Our team reached out to address his concerns and apologize. ”

American Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Nicholas Economou/Getty Images


immeasurable burden

Morris, 32, said he was “heartbroken” when his wheelchair broke. “I quickly realized what the next few months were going to look like. I can’t have the devices that give me mobility and the opportunity to participate in society, I can’t do everything in life. was,” he said.

“The cost to a disabled person from the destruction of a chair can last for months or longer. It’s truly immense.”

Morris was expected to spend up to 80 hours solving this ordeal.

Senator Tammy Duckworth said in an email to Insider, “We will never allow an airline to break a leg in 1 in 65 passengers, but 1 in 65 wheelchairs are damaged by an airline. If you’re getting a , that’s essentially what’s happening.

I know from personal experience that when an airline damages a wheelchair, it’s not just an inconvenience, it’s a complete loss of mobility and independence. We cannot rest until all airlines finally treat our wheelchairs not just as suitcases, but as complex medical devices. ”

In response to the airline’s apology, Morris told insiders that ‘apologies don’t solve the problem’, calling for new policies and ‘sustainable solutions’ to frequent accidents in which disabled people suffer repeatedly during flights. .

“I am a top tier frequent flyer and an Executive Platinum member of the American Airlines loyalty program, but have never had a substantial conversation with anyone of any authority at American Airlines,” Morris said of the trip. I am writing. He wanted to “sit at the table” for himself and other disabled people.

Department of Transportation data shows that an average of 35.8 wheelchairs are damaged or damaged on US flights every day.

In November 2021, disability activist and wheelchair user Engracia Figueroa died after United destroyed his wheelchair. She bore the pain in her body from her replacement chair, which became infected and led to her death.

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