United Misses Step for Passenger with Disability

D'Arcee NealUnited Airlines didn't give D'Arcee Neal the access and assistance he needed. Neal, who has cerebral palsy, had asked for a wheelchair, which was available for him but then removed for some reason. Neal needed to use a restroom and, according to CNN, "crawled up the aisle and to the gangway, where a wheelchair was then ready." According to Neal, the flight attendants weren't helpful: "I expected them to ask to assist me, but they just stared."

United called Neal to apologize and issued this statement: 

"As customers began to exit the aircraft, we made a mistake and told the agent with the aisle chair that it was no longer needed, and it was removed from the area," the airline said in a statement. "When we realized our error-that Mr. Neal was onboard and needed the aisle chair-we arranged to have it brought back, but it arrived too late."

Neal is a disability advocate and was on his way home from a meeting in San Francisco with Uber about their accessibility policies. Although the incident relates to his work, it became public only after he posted on his Facebook page that United had apologized. He said he didn't expect any response and was surprised the company responded at all: 

"Quite frankly, I was just shocked, because this had happened a couple of times before (with various airlines), and no company had ever bothered to apologize when they've done something wrong.

Image source.  

Discussion Starters: 

  • What should the flight attendants or other passengers have done differently? 
  • What's your assessment of United's apology? Should the company do more at this point?