A Delta Airlines passenger is standing up for travelers and the safety of their equipment.
Addie Loerzel, 17, who has spina bifida, a condition that affects the spine, recently traveled with her mother on Delta Airlines from her home state of Minnesota to Portland, Oregon, with her 6-month-old power wheelchair in tow. She checked the apparatus, but upon landing, she was informed by a Delta Air Lines representative that her chair had gotten damaged in transit, according to USA Today.
“My initial shock was the cosmetic damage,” Loerzel’s mother Marisa Bengston-Loerzel told the outlet. “It was a very emotional, overwhelming thing to see.”
The two were on their way to a beauty pageant at the time of the incident.
The chair would not turn on, and according to photos shared with the outlet, the chair was bent and had several pieces loose and out of place.
Loerzel said a fellow passenger was able to get her chair moving again, although it wasn’t entirely fixed. Delta was unable to find Loerzel a replacement chair, so she used her broken chair for the duration of her trip, she said.
“Delta has been in direct contact with this customer to sincerely apologize for their experience and is working with the customer’s preferred vendor for repairs to help make things right,” a statement from the airline about the incident read. “We consider a wheelchair an extension of a person and understand that any mishandling of a mobility device directly impacts their daily living.”
However, Loerzel said the airline damaged her chair even more during her trip home, and there’s no timeline on when it will be fixed.
Delta approved a claim to replace the chair, and Loerzel is expecting to receive it in a month or two.
Loerzel hopes the situation encourages airlines to do better for passengers who use mobility tools.
“Maybe they could have a list … for how to take them up into the plane and secure them down into the plane,” Loerzel suggested to the outlet of how airlines can improve transporting such items. “Some wheelchairs, they have hooks and they could just hook it in, and that’s how they keep it safe.”
Bengston-Loerzel also suggested that special cargo needs to receive extra attention from staffers. “The captain or the loadmaster or whoever it is needs to double check a power chair is secure under the airplane,” she added.
According to Travel Weekly, 10 of the largest United States airlines mishandled 11,389 wheelchairs or scooters in 2022.