United Airlines has been called out for the alleged gross mistreatment of a disabled passenger.
Trey Harris, a former employee of both Google and Amazon, lives with spondylitis, a type of autoimmune spinal arthritis which makes it difficult for him to walk, requiring him to sometimes use a cane and sometimes a mobility device made by Segway.
Harris claims in a blog post that the airline refused to allow him to board a flight with his mobility scooter in spite of reassurances from US air transport authorities. UA also refused to check the scooter onto plane’s cargo hold as oversized luggage, claims Harris.
The airline is suffering a public relations nightmare of late, as it copes with the public outcry following the violent removal of a doctor and a clumsy half-apology by its CEO. And the sting in the tail, a passenger was stung last week by stowaway scorpion.
Harris said he contacted both the Department of Transport and the Transport Security Administration (TSA) to inform the airline of his condition and his requirements, well in advance of his flight on March 3.
Harris alleges the Special Needs desk at United Airlines also told him that there would be no issue as the particular model of his mobility scooter would fit in the overhead bins.
United Airlines told Harris that his itinerary had been updated to reflect this information and that he could contact them if any problems arose while he was boarding.
He was then forwarded to the equivalent TSA desk who made similar statements and even confirmed the arrangement via email.
Harris and his partner arrived at Newark Liberty airport to begin their honeymoon. Both men made it through the TSA security checkpoint without incident.
However, UA staff at the gate ignored both the TSA’s decision that the device was permissible aboard the aircraft, as well as the recommendation by their own special needs desk that Segway was safe.
They were so insistent, in fact, that Harris was forced to abandon the mobility device or risk missing the flight, and thus his honeymoon, as UA staff refused to check the Segway onto the plane’s cargo hold with all of the other oversized luggage.
Harris persevered with a rented mobility scooter and continued to enjoy his honeymoon regardless. That is, until airport staff left numerous voicemail messages informing him that he could face fines and even criminal charges for leaving a potentially hazardous item in Newark airport; that is, his Segway.
Upon his return to New Jersey, Harris was not arrested and even managed to be reunited with his Segway.
Despite the ordeal, Harris is not seeking damages or compensation of any kind from United.