United Airlines Forced a Disabled Gay Man to Abandon His Mobility Device, Ruining His Honeymoon
United Airlines made a disabled gay man abandon his mobility device before boarding his flight, ruining his honeymoon with his husband.
Trey Harris has autoimmune spinal arthritis and isn’t able to always walk on his own. Because of this, he uses a Segway and cane to get around.
When preparing to take a JoCo Cruise on his honeymoon with his husband, he let United Airlines know they would be bringing the mobility device along with them on their travels.
Harris writes on Medium.com: “The United rep then transferred me to the TSA disability services desk to get the OK from them as well; TSA made a notation and told me who to contact if we had any trouble getting through security. TSA then sent me an email to confirm.”
However when they got to the gate, they were told they would not be allowed to carry the device on to the plane.
“After speaking to the rep, the gate agent said a “manager” had to decide. We waited a bit—by this time, everyone in the gate area had boarded—then the manager came and said no. ‘We don’t allow hoverboards, they’re fire risks.’”
“I explained that it’s a Segway, not a hoverboard, it’s UL-certified for fire safety (with a hologram-seal certification on bottom stating this — I showed it to them), and one has never spontaneously combusted like those cheap hoverboards everyone was buying a couple years ago did. You could buy one on Amazon, even after they announced they wouldn’t sell hoverboards anymore.”
“The manager was unswayed. “We don’t even allow Samsung phones, we definitely won’t allow that.” (I did not point out that I hadn’t seen anyone asked to show their phone at the gate, and so how did he know there wasn’t a Samsung phone on board?)”
After a whole lot of stress and the flight being delayed, Harris finally gave in and agreed to just leave it behind. “Finally, as they’re about to close the doors (were they really going to push off with all our things onboard?), I pointed to it and said, “What if I just left it right here,” in front of the gate — “will you let us board without it?” The gate agent grumbles that we could’ve done that at the start without all this trouble, and then lets us board — me hobbling on my cane down the jetway. We take off, and my honeymoon starts with me sobbing for an hour, my husband consoling me. I felt humiliated, like all the passengers blamed me for the delay.”
During their trip, Harris had to get around on an awkward scooter that cost of hundreds of dollars to rent. To add to his displeasure, he was also threatened with arrest for leaving his Segway at the gate. Thankfully, that didn’t happen, but the threat did stress Harris out.
“I’ve since done more research and can find no reason whatsoever that this should have happened. I did everything I was supposed to. I had the policies and regulations behind me. I’ve sent a letter—a real, paper letter, since I hear that gets better results—to United Airlines, but so far have heard nothing.”
“I don’t care if United Airlines compensates me, not even for the scooter rental. An apology would be nice, but I’m not expecting miracles. I’d just like them — or another airline, if they refuse — to assure me I’ll be allowed to bring my mobility device with me the next time I fly.”