“Sorry, we’re short staffed”: Disabled woman says she was not given wheelchair assistance at Charlotte airport

Published: Jun. 8, 2021 at 6:43 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Some people flying out of the Charlotte airport are reporting more complaints about the impacts of staffing shortages.

A woman tells WBTV she was not given the wheelchair assistance she requested from American Airlines when she flew out of Charlotte a few weeks ago.

Deborah Dalton and her sister Marie Gordon planned the trip of a lifetime.

On May 22nd they would fly to Michigan to meet their 83-year-old brother for the very first time, after learning about him through online ancestry research.

They say they did not expect a journey that they say was filled with discrimination and bad customer service.

Deborah Dalton says she expected Charlotte Airport personnel to push the wheelchair of her disabled sister Marie Gordon, but that’s not what happened.

“We were at the airport two hours early,” Dalton said. “I asked, will they get us there’ [to the gate] because there was a lot of people and he said ‘ma’am we’re not guaranteeing anyone can get to the gate on time.’”

American Airlines contracts Prospect Airport Services for wheelchair assistance, but Dalton says an employee told her they are too short staffed.

She says she pushed her sister through security herself, finally stopping for help at an American Airlines customer service desk.

“I said ‘excuse me can you help us, I can’t push the wheelchair’ and they said ‘I’m sorry we contract that out and we’re short staffed,’” Dalton said.

Gordon says the lack of assistance continued when they got to their gate.

The plane was a commuter jet separated from the gate, which requires a walk across the tarmac and up the ramp.

She says they asked her if she could walk herself.

“He showed me the ramp up and said ‘do you think can you go up that ramp?’” Gordon said. “What part of handicapped are you not getting. I’m not handicapped because I’m overweight.”

She says she tried to walk on her own, but fell down face forward.

“I don’t know how long I was on the ground because I just couldn’t get up!” Gordon said. “That was a nightmare for me to be on that ground.”

In a statement a spokesperson for American Airlines says:

“Our mission is to ensure customers of all abilities have a positive travel experience, and in this instance we fell short. American is working closely with our wheelchair support vendor to ensure we have appropriate staff and resources are available to care for customers throughout their journey. Our team has reached out to Ms. Gordon to learn more about her experience and to apologize.”

Gordon was bleeding and bruised.

She says it wasn’t until she fell and they had to call EMS that she was finally offered a wheelchair and assistance boarding the flight.

“It could have all been handled differently, it didn’t have to happen,” she said.

Gordon says when she landed in Michigan a wheelchair was waiting for her, but once again she was not offered assistance and told that there was no one available to help.

WBTV reached out to Prospect Airport services regarding the staffing shortage and this incident, but did not receive a response as of news time.

According to American Airlines, Prospect Airport Services is " actively hiring to ensure all customers are cared for throughout their journey.”

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