When Tyler Schilhabel and his new wife, Courtney, embarked on their honeymoon to the Dominican Republic recently they expected just the regular amount of hassle that comes with traveling by wheelchair.
What they got was, Schilhabel said later on Facebook, humiliating, uncomfortable and downright injurious treatment as they flew to and from Los Angeles to the Dominica Republic via Chicago on United Airlines.
It started when they landed in Chicago and there was no aisle chair available to take Schilhabel to the front of the plane. He told USA Today that he had requested all the requisite equipment well in advance, knowing that normal wheelchairs are too wide for airplane aisles. Paralyzed from the waist down since an ATV accident several years ago, he is well versed in traveling with a disability, he said.
In order to speed things up so he could make his connection, a flight attendant carried him the seven rows to the front of the plane.
When they got to Punto Cana, their destination, there was no elevator or ramp off the plane.
The requisite lift was not working, and not trusting a stranger to carry him down a flight of stairs to the ground, Schilhabel opted to “hop down step by step to get to my chair,” he wrote.
United Airlines admitted to USA Today that the lift hadn’t been working and was being replaced.
It didn’t get any better on the return, though. United also didn’t have an aisle chair when the pair landed in Chicago going back, only this time they were seated far in the back of the plane, “so I once again had to scoot all the way down on my butt,” Schilhabel wrote on Facebook, for 31 rows, so as to get through customs in time to make their connection.
“I know everybody has travel horror stories, but this was completely ridiculous,” he wrote. “I’ve flown United my last 6 flights and each time they’ve either been late with getting an aisle chair to me or didn’t have one at all. Needless to say I won’t be using their business anytime soon.”