WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — A man with cerebral palsy crawled off of a United Airlines plane after there was no wheelchair waiting for him at the gate.
D’Arcee Neal, a 29-year-old former disability advocate who now works for the Interior Department, flew from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., last week after meeting with Uber about accessibility policies. Neal explained to CNN that due to a mix-up at the gate, he was told by the crew to wait for a wheelchair to be found.
Neal, however, needed to use the bathroom and his cerebral palsy made it difficult for him to use the one on the plane. He waited 15 minutes for passengers to get off the plane and had waited another 15 minutes for an aisle wheelchair.
“I was trying to get them to understand that this is why I don’t want to wait another 15 to 20 minutes,” he told CNN.
Neal then got out of his seat and started crawling up the aisle and to the gangway while flight attendants watched.
“I expected them to ask to assist me, but they just stared,” he explained to CNN.
A wheelchair was waiting for Neal at the gangway by the time he crawled out.
Neal didn’t contact United after the incident because he “honestly didn’t believe they cared,” but United apologized the next day for what happened.
“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,” United told CNN 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.”
The airline said they suspended the manager on duty and offered Neal $300 in compensation.
“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,” Neal told CNN.
He added, “I just hope they learn from this.”