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A woman with multiple sclerosis claims cabin crew on a Delta flight forcibly tied her to her wheelchair because they didn’t have the proper safety equipment for her.
The woman, Maria Saliagas, usually travels to Europe with her husband in a wheelchair with straps that help her sit up straight because she can’t do so on her own. Delta normally provides the correct wheelchair for her. On her April 1 flight from Atlanta (ATL) to Amsterdam (AMS), that was not the case.
The airline did not have a wheelchair with the straps for Saliagas, so according to her son, the flight’s crew used a blanket to tie her tightly in her chair. “They took a dirty blanket and tied her forcefully with it and she has bruise marks on part of her arm because it was so tight and she started crying,” her son, Nathan Saliagas, told WSB-TV in Atlanta.
Sources investigating the incident told TPG that upon Saliagas’ arrival at AMS, the airport-contracted wheelchair vendor deplaned her using an “aisle chair” designed to board the aircraft. In the European Union, airlines must use wheelchair vendors contracted by the airport. The person with knowledge of the investigation said the wheelchair vendor then offered Saliagas several wheelchair options for transfer through the gate, and she picked one.
After she was seated, Saliagas told the wheelchair attendant she felt like she was slipping so “as a mitigation tool, the customer agreed to blankets being offered as a way to provide comfort and secure her to the wheelchair.”
The source investigating the incident said the blanket used was taken from its original, seal plastic wrap.
“We are disappointed that our customers didn’t have a satisfying travel experience and will ensure that their return flight exceeds expectations,” Delta said in an email to TPG. “While Delta always looks for ways to improve the overall customer experience, our findings do not align with details shared by the customer’s family.”
Like many airlines, Delta has online forms for passengers with disabilities to request assistance at the airport in advance. The Delta disability assistance page on its website also says that passengers with disabilities who need “real-time” assistance in the airport contact a complaint resolution official in the terminal. “Our CROs have been specially trained and are aware of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) disability regulations.”
When the Saliagas family complained to the airline, they said Delta offered them 20,000 SkyMiles — worth $240 based on TPG‘s most recent valuations. But the family said they would rather see a change in Delta’s disability policy.
*This post has been updated to reflect Delta’s new statement to TPG as well as additional information from the investigation into the matter.
Featured image by Shutterstock.com.
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