Woman calls out airline after crew nearly broke her wheelchair in ‘rushed’ boarding debacle: ‘These are literally my legs’

TikTok user karleexrosee was speaking about her experience with United  (karleexrosee/TikTok)
TikTok user karleexrosee was speaking about her experience with United (karleexrosee/TikTok)

A passenger on board a United Airlines flight has claimed that the US carrier failed to properly accommodate her and her accessibility needs.

TikTok user karleexrosee alleges that the airline did not offer her the required pre-boarding, provide accessible seating or store her wheelchair properly during her flight, thereby failing to adhere to policy.

In a video posted on 17 May, Karlee said that the crew were making her “put my chair underneath [in the cabin]” even though “all airlines are supposed to accommodate one wheelchair”. In addition, she claimed that the armrest didn’t lift – so the crew had to “lift me into my seat” – and that the flight attendant was rude when she asked her to try to not break her chair.

The video currently has almost 600,00 views, with a follow-up video explaining that Karlee had booked the flight on the day. On arriving at the airport, she asked to change her ticket to an aisle seat and was subsequently moved. She says that she then asked the people working at the check-in desk if she could store her wheelchair in the cabin; they apparently told her to ask the flight attendants.

According to the US Department for Transportation policy, airlines “must ensure that there is priority space in the cabin of sufficient size to stow at least one typical adult-sized folding, collapsible, or break-down manual passenger wheelchair, the dimensions of which are 13 inches by 36 inches by 42 inches or less”.

When it came to boarding, people boarded before Karlee even though she is “supposed to board first”. According to Department of Transportation policy, “must offer preboarding to passengers with a disability who self-identify at the gate as needing additional time or assistance to board, stow accessibility equipment, or be seated”.

“There’s people just sitting and waiting for me, and I feel so awkward and rushed”, she said, adding that it “just slows things down”.

“Where they changed my seat to, [it] was a seat where the thing [armrest] didn’t go up. I had to be lifted into my seat”. Another Department policy states that “new aircraft with 30 or more seats must have movable aisle armrests on half the aisle seats in the aircraft”, but it is unclear whether this plane was new enough to qualify.

“When I was getting on the plane I said to the flight attendant, ‘my chair doesn’t squeeze together, can you please tell them not to try and squeeze it’, and she was just so rude.

“You don’t realise that these are literally my legs, this can’t break”.

An April report from the Office of Aviation Consumer Protection stated that 767 wheelchairs were reported to have been mishandled by US carriers in February alone.

Many comments on her video were supportive, with one person saying that her “dad is a paraplegic and we had to learn the hard way. They’ve broken his chair along the way”.

“People do not understand how expensive wheelchairs are and how important it is to have it near you” a second commenter remarked.

Karlee later claimed on her original video that United “called and gave me a voucher”, though it is not known how much for.

The Independent has contacted United Airlines for comment.