Paraplegic Passenger Forced to Scoot Down United Plane Aisle on Bottom

Jan 9, 2019

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Tyler Schilhabel, who is in a wheelchair, was faced with a predicament when his United flight landed at O’Hare International Airport (ORD) for a layover during his honeymoon. Due to lack of proper equipment onboard the aircraft, Schilhabel says he had to scoot on his bottom through the aisle to the front of the plane to make his connecting flight.

“I had to scoot on my bottom all the way to the front of the plane, and when we realized there wasn’t a ramp or anything else, my wife and I just decided, no, it’s not safe. We don’t trust them to carry me down the flight of stairs, so we just hopped down. She grabbed my legs, and I hopped down step by step on my bottom,” Schilhabel said in a video detailing his experience.

“One of the flight attendants, who knew that I was in a rush and the aisle chair wasn’t there, he actually picked me up, lifted me and put me into my normal chair so that I could make my connecting flight,” Schilhabel also added.

In order for a paraplegic passenger to deplane, United’s usual protocol is to provide an aisle chair, which helps move the passenger through the narrow plane aisles. However, on both flights that landed at ORD, an aisle chair couldn’t be mustered up in time to transport Schilhabel to his connecting flight. Thus, United staff and Schilhabel had to, once again, take matters into their own hands. “We had a connecting flight, still had to get through customs, so I scooted on my bottom all 31 rows to the front of the plane, got on my chair, got through customs,” said Schilhabel.

Despite an ongoing narrative of airlines and airports mistreating disabled passengers, United sites this specific incident as a rarity for them. “We are proud to operate an airline that doesn’t just include people with disabilities but welcomes them as customers,” said United in a statement. “That said, this incident falls far short of our own high standard.”

As for future, preventative measures, a United spokesperson told TPG that although the airline hasn’t made any immediate changes to its current protocol for paraplegic passengers, it plans to use this experience “as an opportunity to discuss new ways in which we can better serve customers with disabilities.”

Featured image courtesy of United Airlines.

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