Warning: If you have high blood pressure then don’t read this story. Cory Lee, an award-winning travel blogger and my friend, recently had a horrendous experience aboard a Delta flight after they landed in Atlanta. A brief background on Cory: He was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy at the age of two, got hist first wheelchair at the age of four, and has rolled around the world ever since. The latter is no exaggeration. RELATED: Here’s my 39 travel questions interview with Cory Lee from when we were all stuck at home at the height of the pandemic.
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Cory has been to over 40 countries and to all seven continents. He’s truly an inspiration to so many, including me, and to many wheelchair users. I’ve been fortunate to spend time with Cory at travel shows and conferences and have seen so many people approach Cory to thank him for sharing the stories of his inspiring travels on his website, social media (Instagram, Facebook), TV and in his children’s book, Let’s Explore With Cor Cor.
The incident I’m about to tell you about happened on November 13 when Cory and his remarkable mother returned home from a 10-day trip to Chile. Less than two weeks later, he’s in Hawaii.
Here’s what Cory posted on Instagram when he and his mom landed from Santiago, along with a video of the encounter:
”WORST AIRPORT EXPERIENCE EVER! ✈️ This morning, after arriving back home in Atlanta, the crew refused to bring my wheelchair to the door of the plane. I told the airport crew and flight attendants that I would just stay on the plane until my wheelchair was brought to the door of the plane & they immediately got livid. A Delta flight attendant literally threatened us by saying TSA would ‘make us get off with their guns.’ ?
By law, according to the Air Carrier Access Act, they are required to bring the wheelchair as close to the plane as possible and you do not have to get off the plane until they do so. I have flown into the Atlanta airport hundreds of times & they have always brought my wheelchair to the door of the plane. I don’t know why they were so adamant about not bringing it today, but to threaten us with guns?! What in the world?!
After threatening us, and us still saying that we needed my wheelchair brought to the door of the plane since I can’t sit upright in an aisle chair for an extended period of time, the ground crew guy (Mr. Flowers) was very apologetic and found a way to quickly bring my wheelchair to the plane door. After being threatened with guns, it was relieving to have his help and kindness.
Today, this flight attendant from @delta and multiple members of the Atlanta airport staff showed that they do NOT care about passengers with disabilities or the Air Carrier Access Act to the point that I was threatened with guns to get off the plane, despite my wheelchair not being there for me. I have had a lot of wild travel experiences across 40 countries over the past 9 years, but this one was hands-down the worst of all. Delta and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport need a serious awakening (and a LOT of empathy!!!!!!!).”
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Cory is right in so many ways, from the Air Carrier Access Act to Delta flight attendants and airport staff needing more empathy.
I mean, I understand the flight attendants are tired after a long, overnight flight and they don’t get paid while parked at the gate with the door open but come on. Have some empathy! And then, to threaten Cory with guns? This is insane and a soon-to-be PR nightmare for both Delta and the ATL airport.
The PR nightmare is already beginning; here are just a few of the major publications covering this debacle:
Fox News: Delta flight attendant tells wheelchair passenger that TSA will make him get off plane ‘with their guns’
The Independent: Cory Lee: Disabled travel blogger threatened with ‘TSA guns’ by Delta flight attendant in wheelchair row
Daily Mail: Delta cabin crew threaten disabled man they’ll remove him ‘with guns’
In an interview with FOX News, Cory said “it can take up to an hour for his wheelchair to get to the jet bridge and the aisle chair is uncomfortable and puts him at risk for developing pressure sores. Cory said it was his request to wait for his wheelchair to be brought to the aircraft that angered the flight attendants and a supervisor. “They were talking to each other, saying, ‘He just doesn’t want to get off the plane,'” Lee told Fox News Digital. “Believe me, I definitely wanted to get off the plane.”
The part that really makes your blood boil is when the flight attendant told him to exit the plane and wait for his wheelchair in the aisle chair — or the TSA would make him “get off the aircraft with all their guns and stuff.”
First of all, the TSA officers don’t have guns and secondly if they did get him off the aircraft without his chair being at the door, Cory would be able to buy the airline after he took them to court.
According to The U.S. Department of Transportation website, “You can request that your wheelchair or walker be returned to you on the jet way at your destination airport and not the baggage claim area. Airlines are required to return wheelchairs to users as closely as possible to the door of the aircraft if requested.”
One of the things Cory would like is “is the opportunity to speak to flight attendants, Delta corporate and ground crews about interacting with people with disabilities.” He said: “They need accessibility training and to hear from actual people with disabilities like myself. They need to understand the impact their words have.”
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He should have gotten his fat butt off the plane when he was asked.