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Delta Accused of Destroying Flyer’s Wheelchair

Delta Accused of Destroying Flyer’s Wheelchair
Joe Cortez

Another airline stands accused of not caring for wheelchair-bound passengers, after a TikTok video from the moment goes viral. The powered wheelchair was checked aboard Delta, but reportedly arrived with broken wheels – leaving the flyer scrambling for a replacement.

Delta Air Lines is being accused of breaking a wheelchair, after a TikTok video showing the aftermath of the situation went viral. Newsweek reports once the video was shared to social media, it attracted the sympathies of both flyers and industry trade organizations.

“This Is My Life. This Is the Only Way I Can Live My Life”

The video was taken and posted online on May 22, 2021 by Bri Scalesse, a model who also uses a wheelchair. In the jetway, her friend Gabrielle deFiebre was told by employees that the wheels of her motorized chair were broken off during the flight.

@briscalesseWhen is this going to stop? #fyp #disabilitiyawareness #wheelchair @geeg_def♬ original sound – briscalesse

“She kept repeating ‘this is my life,’” the text posted by Scalesse reads. “’This is the only way I can live my life.”

The video ultimately reached over 2.1 million people, many of them sympathizing with both deFiebre and Scalesse. The issue caught the attention of the International Air Transport Association, who reached out to express solidarity with both flyers on Twitter.

In an update posted to the same TikTok account, they said although Delta was working with them to get a replacement, deFiebre would need to find a replacement both at her destination and when she gets home until it is repaired.

“It was obviously devastating to get off the plain and see that my wheels had been completely destroyed,” said deFiebre. “It happens all the time to people and it shouldn’t be something that happens.”

In a statement to Newsweek, Delta said they were in touch with the flyer to “make this right, including support to make repairs to her device.” The airline will launch an investigation to determine what went wrong.

Delta Second Airline to Face Scorn After Wheelchair Issues

Delta is the second carrier in six months to get public blowback after mishandling a mobility device. In November 2020, travel blogger John Morris accused American of refusing him at the gate over concerns his wheelchair wouldn’t fit in the aircraft.

View Comments (7)


  1. rstruthe

    May 27, 2021 at 3:25 am

    If I have to ship or check something a lot less important or fragile than an electric wheel chair, the airline makes me crate it or put it in a hard case and sign a waiver.
    In order to ensure the chair is not damaged, why was it not packed to the same standards the rest of us need to work too? It should be on a skid in a crate properly strapped down and bubble wrapped.
    If I was going on a bike trip which I needed at the other end and was to gate check my bike, I would fully expect a cracked frame and bent wheels at the other end,
    While I fee for her situation, she should have a temporary chair to use at the airport and ensure the expensive one is packed to the full standard the rest of us need to live up to!

  2. hockeycaps

    May 27, 2021 at 2:33 pm

    I sympathize with you, but the way this story is written and published makes it sound like Delta did this on purpose. I believe that is the farthest from the truth. As many pieces of cargo that they move on a daily basis, unfortunately, things may get broken. “Destroyed” is a pretty harsh word. They damaged it is probably more appropriate. I know Delta will make it right. Don’t throw them under the bus for an accident.

  3. Captain J

    May 28, 2021 at 7:41 am

    Being disabled and traveling by airline creates certain dilemmas, number one being able to move from A to B in your chair.
    Being the airline having to carefully transport the chair also creates dilemmas.
    Over time, simple wheelchairs have become enormous, extremely heavy and awkward. Sometimes weighing 400+lbs, these “mini golf carts” have protruding parts, uncollapsable componants (seat, steering, etc) and flimsy plastic coverings, bottom line is they are not designed for travel whatsoever.
    Now factor in the ability to load, usually at the last minute (as the pax gets out of the chair and then boards) and then ground crews, at considerable safety risk, have to manhandle this awkward and heavy machine up a onclined conveyor then over gaps between the conveyor and aircraft and through a cargo door usually not high enough to “fit” (upright) the chair.
    Then it has to be tied down or positioned not to be able to shift. Then upon arrival, the same ugly process happens again…
    These loading procedures mind you are all happening rapidly, as the “clock on an airline turn is always ticking… get the picture?
    So, while sympathetic to the owners, this is unfortunately the reality of airline operations and aircraft.
    I suggest traveling always with a manual and lightweight alternative that is practical.

  4. NYCtraveler

    May 30, 2021 at 4:48 pm

    My father is a paraplegic. He has been dropped on his head by American Airlines……Iberia lost his wheelchair and had to send him home in an ambulette because they LOST the electric wheelchair in Madrid? American broke the wheelchair two times and he waited weeks for repairs and replacement parts. The airlines outsource this so they don’t have to accept responsibility….The companies that do the lifting and transport are 3rd party limited liability companies….Sadly our experience is that nobody cares about the handicapped when you travel….KLM once forgot him in the lounge in Amsterdam and then yelled at both him and my Mom when their escort never came back to get them at the agreed upon time???? This was all pre covid…….Everytime we travel we take the chance that this will happen to us and then what? its terrible.

  5. dhturk

    June 3, 2021 at 4:40 am

    The article doesn’t explain how the chair receive the damaged. Was it an accident, or improper handling by a Delta employee?

  6. amybd

    June 3, 2021 at 7:38 am

    I have this same chair. It weighs less than 50 pounds. When I travel with someone who can help, I have them take the wheels off and place everything in the cabin so this doesn’t happen. I usually get resistance from the crew who have invariably placed their bags in the wheelchair closet and don’t want to move them, and then glares from everyone as this takes time when they are trying to hurry and board the rest of the passengers. I can’t do this when traveling alone. The power assist wheels are critical for me to be able to use my chair independently and if not cared for correctly are not hard to damage to the point of being unable to repair them. I would call that destroyed. It took over 6 months for me to get them the first time, so, yeah, I would be pretty distraught if they were damaged. I would love to be able to carefully pack my chair in bubble wrap and boxes, but I need my wheelchair to get to the airport and to the gate. Do you want to wait for me to do that packing on the jetway while you are waiting to board? I doubt it.

  7. DeltaFlyer123

    June 3, 2021 at 8:51 am

    I think the kind of accidents and incidents described in the comments above happen to all airlines, in fact to all organizations where people are present. Let’s face it, the day to day operations are run by ordinary people, and sometimes under the pressures of their work and maybe a distraction or two here and there, they may overlook a small detail that can cascade into a major incident, like a broken wheelchair. As the Biblical saying goes, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone”
    To blame and airline, one would have to prove a deliberate disregard for quality work that is propagated by management, and so far all I’ve seen are isolated incidents happening randomly at different airlines.

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