Despicable Service

November 5, 2007

in Attendant & Pilot Stories

I was called to come to San Francisco from Dallas because my mother was dying. I am disabled and must use a wheelchair when I travel as I can’t walk very far. I told the airline about this when I made my reservation.

Dallas went off with no problem. When I arrived in San Francisco I had to wait to deplane because there were three other passengers who needed wheelchair assistance. I waited patiently. Finally, after almost thirty minutes had gone by, it was my turn. I got off the plane to a waiting wheelchair and was pushed up the ramp by one male flight attendant accompanied by a female attendant. As they pushed me into the terminal an announcement was made for the next flight. They looked at each other and then stopped the wheelchair and LEFT, leaving me right in the path as people boarded. Dozens of people pushed by me. It was like being in the middle of a stampede. No one looked at me. I sat and sat. I kept looking around for some help. No one came. I began to cry.

A nice woman, a fellow traveler, walked up to me and asked if she could help me. By this time I felt absolutely humiliated, helpless and angry. As I explained what had happened she looked shocked. I had been sitting there by this time for over a half an hour. Finally, a porter – not any sort of manager – walked up, apologized, and wheeled me to get my luggage and transport. I was never contacted by anyone, never offered any sort of official apology or any sort of compensation for the completely crappy way I had been treated.

My mother died two days later. I just didn’t have it in me to deal with those jerks. I rented a car to drive home.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Flies-A-Lot October 10, 2008 at 8:02 am

well, to be fair the flight personnel are only there to deal with in flight issues and each airport provides skycaps/porter services separate from the airline…but that still sucks and I feel bad for you. Sorry about your mom.


Elaine April 2, 2009 at 10:33 am

That's terrible. But question…..if you needed a wheelchair, how could you drive?


jaymoney April 2, 2009 at 10:36 am

Anything involving low paid, employees should and most often does result in low expectations, however that is overboard. Way overboard.


LD April 2, 2009 at 11:37 am

Uhhh.. to Elaine. Many people in wheelchairs can and do drive. Look into it.


Worldwind April 2, 2009 at 12:07 pm

I'm so sorry that happened to you. That was terrible.


Coop Down Under April 2, 2009 at 12:20 pm

I can understand the whole people in wheelchairs driving thing but arent they usually able to STEER the car!! If thats the case couldnt you wheel yourself out of the way, if your that incapacitated that you cant move your own wheelchair shouldnt you have a carer with you.


ryan McDonald April 2, 2009 at 1:15 pm

Why couldn't you wheel yourself? Clearly your arms work, as you drove home. Wheel your damn self to wherever you need to go. Stop playing the victim.


Anonymous April 2, 2009 at 1:57 pm

Guys, not all wheelchairs allow the disabled to operate it without assistance. I was in a motorcycle accident and I had such a wheelchair for about 3-4 months while I was recovering. My wife had to push it for me.

Take a look: lg_…_wheelchair.jpg


Anonymous April 2, 2009 at 4:29 pm

To anon above, that's the wheelchair I always see at the airports, so I see validity in this story.


Anonymous April 3, 2009 at 11:52 am

This story is really upsetting. I understand that it's not their job to push a wheelchair around the airport, but they should make sure that there was someone to help him get where he was going, in my opinion. At the very least they should make sure he was safe when they left him, and ditching him in the middle of a stream of travelers is NOT a safe place.


nicole April 6, 2009 at 11:20 am

Needed a wheelchair doesn't mean he couldn't drive. He said in the story he couldn't walk long distances and airports are all about long distance walking. Driving is all about sitting. And it sucks that he was mistreated. The FA's could have at least found someone to help him out before running back to the plane.


Brian April 18, 2009 at 4:51 pm

You can drive home but you can't push your own damn wheelchair? Instead you sat their and cried?


Gwen May 7, 2009 at 4:21 pm

Brian and ryan. The wheelchairs at the airport don't have the wheels that can be pushed by the occupant


Atari May 30, 2009 at 7:05 pm

The only thing I don't understand is why you cried.

You could have wheeled yourself. If Gwen is correct, then couldn't you have gotten up, flagged someone down, and requested that they push you because you are border-line paraplegic?

If you couldn't stand up, you could have reached out an arm to tap someone, saying, "Excuse me. I need assistance."

It seems like if I were in your situation, I would have done SOMETHING – even through my pride and stubbornness – before just– crying.

I'm not judging you, because you very well could have simply been unable to stop anyone or wheel yourself or get up; however, I just want to know– why you cried. A full-grown man crying?

That was the part of the story that really hit me as odd.


guest April 11, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Lets not forget the person, man or woman's, mom was dying. Maybe it was just the exhaustion/frame of mind thing that makes a person cry. I'm 47 years old and if I found myself in a strange airport, not able to ambulate, facing the demise of a parent, I think frustration would have me in tears also.


Outlander June 4, 2009 at 4:59 am

Where does it say this traveler is a man?


Atari June 5, 2009 at 9:09 pm

Well, then, Outlander! XD I suppose that changes everything!

The poster could have been a full-grown WOMAN!

Women are known for walking in circles, getting lost at amusement parks, talking to strangers, accepting candy from said strangers, not wearing their seatbelts and crying without even attempting to ask someone for help!

That was all irony, but not sarcasm.

I did presume that it was a man, for some reason, but that does not negate my perception of this event.


MW July 14, 2009 at 9:31 pm

jesus people are stupid. i'm forced to used a wheelchair or crutches, and i can drive. dumbass.


Anonymous October 18, 2011 at 7:10 pm

I think people are being a bit too harsh on the submitter. When you're told your mother is dying, and you haven't got very long with her it's a total mindf**k and you're incredibly stressed out. Common sense doesn't come to you as well as it does when you're of sound mind because your brain is recovering from a huge shock. It doesn't help that you're expecting to be helped by personnel and they've just abandoned you and you have no clue what's going on. Then you're bombarded with a wave of people and it can really intimidating, and can literally lead to a breakdown, and that's what happened with the submitter.


James April 13, 2013 at 10:51 am

This had to be United at SFO; Many years ago when my mother could travel, she visited me in northern California. She was flying back on a red-eye (her choice!) on United (again, her choice, against my advice.) She had recently had a hip replaced, so could only walk a short distance. We had made arrangements for a wheelchair to meet her at the curb so I could drop her off with curbside luggage checkin, then park and find her for my farewell.

We arrived about 90 minutes before the flight (pre-9/11) – more than enough time. Curbside checkin was closed, no redcap assistance was available or visible. I ended up parking, and needing to assist her walking from the parking area and carry her luggage.

I was suitably incensed, so when we got to the terminal, I saw there was no one in the premier checkin line, and I just walked her into that and straight to a checkin counter, and asked to see a supervisor. I quietly but strongly informed that supervisor what had happened. She checked the ticket record on their system and saw we did make those requests that were not honored. At least, she did upgrade my mother for the flight.


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