I travel with a heavy, 400-lb. power wheelchair and, while I’ve documented very many cases of it being mishandled by American Airlines, I’ve never seen it tossed around like a children’s play toy — it’s simply too heavy for that.
Unlike my power chair, manual wheelchairs (particularly the ultra-light titanium variety) can be tossed around like play things — and a new video shared on TikTok shows just that, as American Airlines agents tossed a wheelchair down a baggage chute, leading to a violent crash.
As the wheelchair crashed into the end of the chute, it went airborne, coming just short of a 720-degree flip, the sort that would make a pro-skateboarder’s career.
TikTok user @haez93, who published the video, wrote that, “after I saw them do this and laugh with the first two wheelchairs I had to get it on film.” She continued, “That’s not what I would call ‘handling with care’ for someone’s mobility device…”
After seeing the video, which has been liked by more than 58,000 TikTok users, I reached out to American Airlines with a request for comment. Their media relations team shared the following statement: “We recognize how important it is to support the independence of customers with disabilities by ensuring the proper care of mobility devices throughout their journey with us. This visual is deeply concerning and we are gathering more details so that we can address them with our team. We will continue to work hard to improve our handling of assistive devices across our network.”
While the TikTok video covers the handling of just one wheelchair, @haez93 shared that she had seen two others mistreated in the same manner. If true, it would suggest that baggage handlers were not just negligent in their handling of mobility equipment, but acted with willful intent to harm the mobility devices. Their employment with the airline should be terminated, and a full review of the airline’s training around the handling of mobility equipment should be conducted by a third-party.
The disability community has long stated that “wheelchairs are not baggage” and should not be treated as such — but in this video, airline employees treated the wheelchair worse than baggage, more like my dog delighting in the destruction of a plush toy. They certainly weren’t “caring for you on life’s journey,” as the American Airlines marketing slogan goes.