Disabled Passenger Stranded on Delta Air Lines Flight for Over an Hour

Lawrence Simmons, a 28-year-old quadriplegic, faced a distressing experience after flying with Delta Air Lines from Los Angeles to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on June 12. Upon arrival, he was informed by the crew that his wheelchair had been lost, leaving him stranded on the plane for over an hour.

Simmons, who had one of his legs in a splint due to a recent injury, was traveling home to Atlanta with his sister and mother for a crucial hospital appointment. As other passengers and crew disembarked, cleaning staff carried out their tasks around him while Delta Air Lines embarked on a search for his missing wheelchair.

Photo Credit: Delta Air Lines

During this agonizing wait, Simmons expressed feelings of anger and physical pain. Eventually, his wheelchair was located at the baggage reclaim area and brought to the gate. Delta Air Lines later sent Simmons a letter, which Insider had the opportunity to review, apologizing for the incident. The letter acknowledged “several miscommunication errors” that led to the delay in finding his wheelchair and condemned the unprofessional behavior exhibited by the agent and flight attendant involved.

Delta Air Lines acknowledged a violation of federal air travel rule 14CFR part 382, which mandates airlines to provide support and accessible services for disabled passengers. The rule specifically prohibits airlines from charging for the transportation of safety assistants needed by disabled passengers during disembarkation. However, Simmons’ family had spent nearly $2,500 on their tickets, including taxes and fees, despite this regulation. Insider has verified this amount through relevant documentation.

In an effort to address the situation, Delta Air Lines issued Simmons a travel credit voucher worth $500, while his mother and sister received vouchers valued at $200 each. A representative from Delta Air Lines expressed sincere apologies and confirmed direct communication with Simmons to rectify the situation. They assured that their staff undergo rigorous training to deliver exceptional and compassionate service to all customers. The airline also has taken steps to notify appropriate managers and is actively collaborating with its Advisory Board on Disability and cross-divisional process teams to enhance the travel experience for passengers with wheelchairs or scooters.

This incident brings to light the challenges faced by disabled passengers during air travel. Last year, another disabled traveler recounted feeling humiliated and objectified after her wheelchair was lost by Ryanair, a European budget airline. She had to endure waiting on the plane while staff worked around her. According to the Department of Transportation’s Air Travel Consumer Report, over 11,000 wheelchairs were mishandled by US airlines in the past year alone.

The incident involving Lawrence Simmons underscores the pressing need for improved services and support for disabled passengers within the airline industry. As travelers with disabilities continue to face such challenges, it is imperative for airlines to prioritize accessibility and ensure that incidents like these are not repeated in the future.