A disabled travel blogger alleged Delta Airlines’s flight attendants threatened to forcefully deplane him after he insisted he would wait inside the plane until his wheelchair was brought to the gate.
Cory Lee, a Georgia-based blogger diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy at the age of two, has been a wheelchair user for most of his life.
Mr Lee was waiting to deplane when he learned his wheelchair was not at the jet bridge, after which he insisted on waiting inside the plane till he had access to it.
He claimed in an Instagram post that the crew “immediately got livid” and asked him to disembark.
The accessibility travel blogger held his ground as his request falls under the Air Carrier Access Act, which allows a passenger to remain seated until their wheelchair is brought to them.
According to the US transportation department, the law mandates airlines return wheelchairs to users as closely as possible to the door of the aircraft, if requested.
Mr Lee said it can take nearly an hour for his chair to get to the jet bridge and explained that the aisle chair used to transport wheelchair users to their own wheelchairs is uncomfortable for him.
“Plus it puts me at risk for developing pressure sores,” he told Fox News Digital.
He said a supervisor, who he claimed also wanted him to deplane without his wheelchair, got involved.
“They were talking to each other, saying, ‘He just doesn’t want to get off the plane’,” Mr Lee said.
“Believe me, I definitely wanted to get off the plane.”
He added that the altercation escalated when a flight attendant asked him to exit and wait for his wheelchair or the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) would make him “get off the aircraft with all their guns and stuff”.
Mr Lee told the outlet that he “did not want to cave to pressure. I know the law”.
“I have flown into the Atlanta airport hundreds of times and they have always brought my wheelchair to the door of the plane,” Mr Lee wrote on Instagram, where he shared a video clip of his interaction with the flight attendants.
“I don’t know why they were so adamant about not bringing it today, but to threaten us with guns?! What in the world?!”
Minutes later a “very nice and helpful” employee of the Atlanta airport arrived and informed him that his wheelchair was at the jet bridge.
“After being threatened with guns, it was relieving to have his help and kindness,” he said.
“I have had a lot of wild travel experiences across 40 countries over the past nine years, but this one was hands-down the worst of all,” he added.
“Delta and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport need a serious awakening (and a LOT of empathy).”
The airline in a statement said the exchange in the video did not reflect the “high standard of care” Delta employees aspired to every day.
“We are reviewing what occurred here and will follow up as appropriate with our people. Delta has reached out to this customer directly to hear more about what they experienced and to offer further apologies.”