When Cory Lee’s Delta Airlines flight landed in Atlanta from Santiago, Chile on November 13, he was looking forward to getting off the plane after a long trip cooped up in an airplane.
The award-winning travel blogger was used to traveling, but has been afflicted with spinal muscular atrophy all his life, and travels with a 400 lb electric wheelchair.
Expecting a peaceful transfer back to his wheelchair that would be brought to the plane, he was not prepared for an altercation with a flight attendant, who threatened to call the TSA to remove him from the plane using guns.
Being confined to a wheelchair hasn’t stopped Lee from traveling worldwide. When the flight lands, he is generally the last person to leave the plane, as the wheelchair has to be brought to the jet bridge.
When the plane landed in Atlanta and other passengers on the plane had left, the flight crew brought Lee an aisle chair, which is used to escort the man to his wheelchair.
Lee asked if his electric 400 lb wheelchair had arrived at the jet bridge, because waiting in the aisle chair is uncomfortable for him.
The flight crew told him his chair hadn’t arrived yet, but growing inpatient, they insisted that he use the aisle chair and wait on the jet bridge for his wheelchair.
Lee insisted on staying on the plane until he knew the wheelchair was ready for him. The Air Carrier Access Act states that disabled travelers can ask the crew to bring their wheelchair to the jet bridge, and Lee knew his rights.
From his experience, Lee also knew that getting the wheelchair to the plane could take time, sometimes up to an hour, and he insisted on waiting before getting into the aisle chair, aggravating the flight attendants. A supervisor got involved in the incident and insisted he deplane. Lee used his phone to video the interaction, and posted it on his Instagram account. In the video, one can see that one of the flight attendants told Lee to wait for his wheelchair on the jet bridge, or the crew would have to call the TSA, who would force the man to get off the plane with “all their guns.”
Lee stayed put.
Minutes later, the chair was brought, and a “nice and helpful” employee of the Atlanta airport picked Lee up, placed him in the aisle chair, and brought him to his vehicle.
Delta Airline apologized to Lee for the incident and said they were looking into it.