American Airlines under fire as viral video shows bag handlers callously tossing passenger’s wheelchair

Shocking video shows American Airlines baggage handlers at Miami International Airport callously hurling a passenger’s wheelchair down a lengthy metal ramp — sparking fierce backlash against America’s largest airline.

In the now-viral video, originally posted on TikTok Nov. 19, an American Airlines staff member is seen letting go of a wheelchair at the top of an unenclosed baggage chute as another staffer waits at the bottom.

As the mobility device picks up speed, the employee on the tarmac makes absolutely no effort to slow its momentum before it crashes into a metal gate and goes airborne, flipping end-over-end several times and repeatedly bouncing on the pavement before landing out of view.

The employee then casually saunters over to the wheelchair and places it on a large rolling dolly containing several other mobility devices, the video shows.

The clip, which has been viewed nearly 3 million times on TikTok alone, included a caption by the original poster claiming the workers were laughing as they did the same thing with two other wheelchairs before she started filming.

A viral video showing American Airlines baggage handlers mistreating a passenger’s wheelchair has garnered nearly 3 million views so far.
TikTok/ @haez93
The video sparked outrage online, including from people who claim their own mobility devices were damaged in transit by the carrier.
TikTok/ @haez93

The footage sparked widespread condemnation online as it spread, including from others who claimed their own mobility devices had been damaged in transit by American Airlines.

The incident even caught the attention of Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who took to X to express his disgust.

“This is totally unacceptable. We’ll be investigating. This is exactly why we are taking action to protect passengers who use wheelchairs. Everyone deserves to travel safely and with dignity,” he wrote.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), herself a wheelchair user who has frequently called for airlines to treat passengers’ mobility devices with greater care, called the incident “infuriating” in a post on X.

“For Americans who rely on wheelchairs to live our lives fully, breaking our wheelchairs is like breaking our legs. In 2023, we shouldn’t still be seeing our mobility devices treated like this by airlines. @AmericanAir must do much better,” she wrote.

Earlier this year, Duckworth introduced the Prioritizing Accountability and Accessibility for Aviation Consumers Act aimed at requiring the Department of Transportation to publish detailed annual reports of air travel complaints lodged by disabled travelers.

Reached by email Thursday, American Airlines said in a statement that their teams are reviewing the video and will be taking “necessary next steps.”

In a statement, American Airlines called the video “deeply concerning” and said it was investigating the incident. In August the airline ranked 13th out of 15 carriers for the number of incidents where mobility devices were damaged, according to US DOT figures.

“We recognize how important it is to support the independence of customers with disabilities by ensuring the proper care of mobility devices throughout their journey with us. This visual is deeply concerning and we are gathering more details so that we can address them with our team. We will continue to work hard to improve our handling of assistive devices across our network,” an airline spokesperson said.

The airline went on to say that they “routinely provide training for our Customer Operations teams that focus on the appropriate handling of wheelchairs and other mobility devices, and we have engaged these teams to determine areas where we can continue to improve.”

According to US Department of Transportation Data from August, American Airlines ranked 13th out of 15 carriers for incidents of mishandled mobility devices, with 226 incidents reported that month alone, or 2.24% of all wheelchairs and scooters taken onboard.

Airlines and their codeshare partners are required to report all incidents of mishandled mobility devices pursuant to the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018.

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