Delta flight attendant tells wheelchair passenger that TSA will make him get off plane 'with their guns'




 

When Cory Lee's Delta flight from Santiago, Chile, landed in Atlanta, Georgia, on Nov. 13, he was looking forward to deplaning after the long trip.

The award-winning travel blogger, who is based in Georgia, was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy at age 2 and has used a wheelchair for most of his life.

That hasn't stopped him from traveling all over the world. When he does, he is always the last to deboard the plane as he waits for his chair to arrive at the jet bridge, Lee told Fox News Digital.

"It weighs like 400 pounds, so it usually takes a while," Lee said.

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When the flight crew approached him with the aisle chair that's used to transport wheelchair users to their own wheelchairs, Lee told Fox News Digital that he inquired if his power chair was at the jet bridge yet.

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Lee said that when he was informed that his wheelchair wasn't at the jet bridge, he told the flight attendants that he preferred to stay on the plane until he had access to his chair.

Lee's request falls under the Air Carrier Access Act.

The U.S. Department of Transportation website reads, "You can request that your wheelchair or walker be returned to you on the jet way at your destination airport and not the baggage claim area. Airlines are required to return wheelchairs to users as closely as possible to the door of the aircraft if requested."

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Lee said it can take up to an hour for his chair to get to the jet bridge and the aisle chair is uncomfortable for him.

"Plus it puts me at risk for developing pressure sores," he said.

Delta Airlines Boeing 777-200LR
Delta Airlines Boeing 777-200LR  

It was Lee's request to wait for his wheelchair to be brought to the aircraft that angered the flight attendants, he said.

A supervisor, who also wanted him to deplane prior to his wheelchair's arrival, got involved, Lee said.

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"They were talking to each other, saying, 'He just doesn't want to get off the plane,'" Lee told Fox News Digital. "Believe me, I definitely wanted to get off the plane."

The interaction, captured on video and shared on Instagram, escalated when a flight attendant told him to exit the plane and wait for his wheelchair in the aisle chair - or the TSA would make Lee "get off the aircraft with all their guns and stuff."

At that point, Lee said he "did not want to cave to pressure. I know the law."

Lee believes he is the first traveler in a wheelchair to visit all seven continents.

A few minutes later, a "very nice and helpful" employee of the Atlanta airport arrived and said the wheelchair was at the door of the jet bridge, Lee said.

"He picked me up and [put me] into the aisle chair and then again into my wheelchair," Lee said, adding that it was about seven to eight minutes after the flight attendant's gun comment that Lee was in his own wheelchair and on his way.

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Fox News Digital reached out to Delta and was sent a statement.

"The exchange in this video does not reflect the high standard of care Delta people aspire to every day," the statement said. "We are reviewing what occurred here and will follow up as appropriate with our people. Delta has reached out to this customer directly to hear more about what they experienced and to offer further apologies."

Lee said he reached out to the airline via email and received a response that said they were looking into the matter.

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What he would really like, however, is the opportunity to speak to flight attendants, Delta corporate and ground crews about interacting with people with disabilities, he noted.

"They need accessibility training and to hear from actual people with disabilities like myself," Lee said. "They need to understand the impact their words have."

Cory Lee's first trip internationally, at age 15, was to the Bahamas.

"Seeing the culture and trying the new foods sparked something inside of me that made me want to see so much more of this big, wild, beautiful world of ours," he writes in his travel blog.

He is a graduate of the University of West Georgia and has a degree in marketing, he says in his blog.

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