A paraplegic man who relies on a wheelchair said he had difficulty traveling on several recent United flights and was forced to scoot down the aisle on his rear end.
Tyler Schilhabel, a California high school football coach, said he had to scoot down aisles on multiple occasions during his honeymoon because the airline couldn’t accommodate him, according to a Facebook post last week.
He said he notified the airline ahead of time about the accommodations he required, but his needs weren’t met.
Schilhabel, who was flying from Los Angeles to the Dominican Republic, said his troubles started during a layover at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, when a flight attendant allegedly had to carry him off the plane to help him make a connecting flight.
“Courtney and I flew to the Dominican Republic for our honeymoon, when we landed they didn’t have an aisle chair (my normal chair is too wide to take on the plane) or ramp/elevator to help me off the plane, only a flight of stairs,” he wrote on Facebook. “So I had to scoot down the aisle on my butt to get off and then hop down step by step to get to my chair.”
United gave him an aisle chair on a subsequent flight, but he still had trouble getting down the stairs, Schilhabel told ABC Chicago station WLS. He said the airline offered to have someone carry him, but he declined.
“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,'” Schilhabel told WLS. “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.”
“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,” he added.
United said it contacted Schilhabel to apologize and called these types of incidents extremely rare.
“We are proud to operate an airline that doesn’t just include people with disabilities but welcomes them as customers,” the company told WLS in a statement. “That said, this incident falls far short of our own high standard.”
Schilhabel said he posted about his experience in an effort to shed light on the issue.
“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,” he wrote in a Facebook post.