After United Airlines failed to bring him a wheelchair, D’Arcce Neal had no choice but to crawl off of the plane. (Photo: NBC News 4)
It’s the kind of thing that should never happen.
A man with disabilities had to crawl off a plane at Reagan National Airport on Tuesday after United Airlines left him waiting.
D’Arcce Neal has cerebral palsy and relies on his wheelchair for transportation. He says that as others deplaned, he was left waiting for the airline to bring him an aisle chair.
No one ever came.
Neal needed to use the restroom, so he took matters into his own hands. “I decided to get out and crawl down the plane, to my chair, got in it, and then just went about my business and left the airport,” Neal told NBC’s News 4. “It’s humiliating. No one should have to do what I did.”
The National Disability Rights Network has received thousands of complaints about inaccessible travel. (Photo: iStock)
Neal is an advocate for people with disabilities and was actually returning from a trip to San Francisco, where he had just given a speech about accessible transportation.
“Half the time I feel like airlines treat people with disabilities as a secondary concern,” said Neal.
United Airlines said it regrets the delay in providing an aisle chair to assist Neal. “During the deplaning process, we made a mistake about the need for the chair and it was removed from the area,” United said in a statement. “When we realized the error, we returned the chair to the gate, but it arrived too late to assist Mr. Neal. We’ve apologized to Mr. Neal for the delay.”
Sadly, this kind of thing has happened before.
In June, Theresa Purcell announced that she was suing American Airlines after she was forced to crawl onto a plane.
According to Purcell, she was boarding a commuter plane from San Diego to Hawaii when the gate agent told her it was too late for them to set up the wheelchair ramp. Left with no other option, she had to crawl onto the plane as others watched.
In an interview with News 4, Dara Baldwin of the National Disability Rights Network confirms that this is an issue that has occurred on various airlines and that over the past year, complaints have gone up 9 percent.
“In 2014 there were over 27,500 complaints in reference to things like this, so it is not uncommon,” she said.