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U.S. Legislator Stopped from Boarding over Wheelchair

Frankfurt, Germany - August 23, 2016: Aircraft of the Lufthansa company at the Frankfurt International airport. It is the busiest airport in Germany in terms of passenger traffic (Photo: iStock)

Airline policies over mobility devices are once again in the spotlight, after a U.S. representative was denied boarding on a business trip over his wheelchair.
Mobility devices continue to be a major problem for travelers, especially when they are denied despite following the rules. Now, a U.S. Representative is bringing attention to the situation after he was refused boarding on a flight abroad to visit military bases in Italy.


The Washington Post reports Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin was denied boarding on a Lufthansa flight, despite assurances he would be allowed to travel without issue.


“Let’s Call This What it is – Discrimination Against People with Disabilities” 

The issue happened on a scheduled flight in August 2022 with the U.S. Navy to visit military bases. According to his account, Navy officials spoke with Lufthansa before the flight to ensure everything would go smoothly. Company representatives assured staff there would be no problem allowing the representative to board.


However, once at the airport, Langevin says he was denied boarding on his flight over his wheelchair. The issue was focused on the lithium-ion battery powering his mobility device. While the lightweight batteries are preferred for most mobility devices, cheaper ones have been used in other products, including “hoverboards,” which have caught fire on aircraft.


Although Federal Aviation Administration regulations allow flyers using a mobility device to travel with a lithium-ion battery-powered device, the gate staff did not allow the legislator to travel. One month later, he took to Twitter to explain his frustrations with the process.




“Let’s call this what it is – discrimination against people with disabilities,” Langevin wrote on Twitter. “It’s frustrating, exhausting, and it’s happening to countless airline passengers with disabilities, most of whom are not members of Congress accompanied by the U.S. Navy.”


In a statement, Lufthansa apologized for the mistake. A spokesperson for the German airline said there had been “challenges when it comes to customers traveling with lithium batteries,” and the gate staff misinterpreted the guidelines.”


Although Langevin was allowed to travel on a later flight when an aide retrieved another wheelchair from his home, he noted that most people do not have that liberty. He called for the passing of his proposed bill to strengthen protections for disabled travelers in the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act.


Issue Latest Row Between Disabled Travelers and Airlines

The situation is just the latest example of travelers with mobility devices facing issues when it comes to air travel. In 2021, a TikTok video went viral when a flyer accused Delta Air Lines of destroying her wheelchair in travel, while the weight of mobility devices was the focus of a 2020 issue with American Airlines.

cbchicago September 19, 2022

Just flew LH in and out of FRA, not ADA friendly.. Lots of stair boarding planes, buses with no ramps, and no elevator access.  They do not care even when the request is in your record.  It was very bad.

twb3 September 16, 2022

I'd like to know why this congressman is not traveling on a US flag carrier.

Counsellor September 16, 2022

FAA should fine Lufthansa big time.  These stories about how a crew exceeded its authority or otherwise discriminated are all well and good, but the airline is not going to clean up its act until forced to, and a healthy fine may be the incentive to do so.

mfreezer September 16, 2022

Well, aviation safety rules and regulations are so complicated and ambiguous at times that I would refrain from calling this discrimination of any kind.
Each employee only wants to cover his own a**! Just imagine you let someone on the plane and god forbid that battery really "fires up" somewhere over the ocean? I wouldn't not want to be responsible for the possible outcome...
And rest assure if it came to light  in the aftermath  that just one tiny regulation has been misinterpreted, well you are f****...
so it is up to legislators to finally make the rules and regulations as simple as possible and also easy to understand for a non law person....

unfrequentflyer September 16, 2022

It is his wheelchair that cannot board, not him.  He might not get any compensation.  If he use a manual wheelchair or one that provided by the airline, there would be no problem