Usually when an airplane video goes viral, it’s because of bad passenger behavior. But a recent incident involving a passenger who requires a wheelchair flipped the script and left Delta scrambling to do damage control.
Cory Lee has spinal muscular atrophy, and therefore uses a wheelchair to get around. As a travel blogger, he flies frequently and is well aware of the procedure for disembarking from a flight — the Air Carrier Access Act obligates the airline to bring his chair as close to the plane as possible and allows him to stay on board until it is ready.
However, the flight attendants on his recent trip back home to Atlanta, Georgia, tried to force him to get off the plane despite the fact that his chair hadn’t yet been brought to the gate.
Video of the incident shows several flight attendants seeming exasperated and unsure what to do, before one comes over to Lee and suggests they get him off the aircraft and then figure out where his chair is. He didn’t want to do that, as he says he can’t sit upright in an aisle chair like the one they would use to get him off the plane for very long.
But the supervisor argued that the TSA was on their way, saying, “They’re going to make you get off the aircraft. They’re gonna have their guns and stuff and they are gonna make you get off.”
It was a shocking escalation of the situation, when getting Lee’s chair seems like it would have been a much more simple resolution for everyone involved — and ultimately, it was.
“The ground crew guy (Mr. Flowers) was very apologetic and found a way to quickly bring my wheelchair to the plane door,” Lee wrote. “After being threatened with guns, it was relieving to have his help and kindness.”
Still, he called it overall the “worst airport experience” and chastised both the Delta flight crew and members of the Atlanta airport staff for showing “that they do NOT care about passengers with disabilities or the Air Carrier Access Act.”
People showed Lee an outpouring of support on his Instagram post, with several expressing that they hoped the appalling incident would bring attention to what people requiring wheelchairs have to deal with.
Meanwhile, Delta told Fox News that they have reached out to Lee and are “reviewing what occurred here.”
“The exchange in this video does not reflect the high standard of care Delta people aspire to every day,” they added.