Carolyn Agee was abandoned and immobile for a 4-hour layover
When an attendant unloaded Carolyn Agee from the Air India plane, her manual wheelchair was not at the jetway for her to use during the long layover.
Instead, an attendant pushed her in a transport chair that she could not move herself to a remote serviceway. Without answering her questions, Agee said the attendant left her and an elderly woman alone “for four hours, unable to use the restroom or access water in 90-degree heat.”
“We were just stuck. There was nobody that even walked by,” she said. “It’s the equivalent of being locked in a room against your will.
“I’ve been hesitant to fly ever since then.”
Agee described several frightening, painful or humiliating experiences while flying and says she has seen too few improvements by airlines over the years.
“I travel a lot less than I would otherwise,” said the author and actor from the Pacfic Northwest who lives with cerebral palsy. “I had one trip where I was so worried about them breaking my brand new chair that I actually got one of those horrible hospital-style chairs from someone whose grandma died and took that on my trip. I hurt. I got so injured. … It almost ruined my entire trip.”
She also described having to hold her ground when she encounters airline crews who do not understand what it means to be an ambulatory wheelchair user.
“Depending on what I’m doing and how well I’m feeling, I switch between using a cane and wheelchair,” she said. “I can only walk very short distances. It’s pretty much impossible for me to navigate an airport without my wheelchair.”
She said some attendants have insisted she must use the aisle chair to get to her seat instead of walking to it with her cane. Another time, a flight attendant told her she could not store her folding cane under the seat in front of her and tried to take it.
She urged airlines to consider their actions in able-bodied terms.
“If they just tied up able-bodied people … [and] left them in a hallway, that would not go down,” she said. “All the airlines would be out of business in a month.”
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