Baggage handlers' shock act goes viral

An airline is investigating a “deeply concerning” incident after it went viral online. Photo / Joshua Hanson, Unsplash

Upsetting clips have gone viral, showing American Airlines baggage handlers at Miami International Airport carelessly throwing a passenger’s wheelchair down a long, metal ramp – which has seen harsh criticism hurled at America’s biggest airline.

In the video, which was initially posted on TikTok on November 19, an American Airlines worker can be seen letting go of a wheelchair at the top of a lengthy baggage chute as another staff member waits at the bottom, New York Post reports.

As the wheelchair picks up speed in the clip, the worker on the tarmac makes no attempt to slow it down before it crashes into a metal gate and flies in the air. The wheelchair can be seen flipping over multiple times and bouncing on the pavement before landing out of the camera’s frame.

The worker then casually strolls towards the wheelchair and puts it on a large rolling trolley.


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The video, which has garnered nearly three million views on TikTok, included a caption in which the poster alleged that the baggage handlers were laughing as they similarly threw around two other wheelchairs before she started filming.

The clip sparked outrage as it spread online and even received comments from people who had claimed that their own wheelchairs had been damaged after flying with American Airlines.


Dang, after i saw them do this and laugh with the first two wheelchairs i had to get it on film. That is not what id call “handling with care” for someones mobility device…. #AmericanAirlines #handlewithcare #mobilitydevice #wheelchair

♬ Oh No – Kreepa

The video even caught the eye of Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who took to Twitter – formerly X – to express his disdain.

“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 shared.


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US senator Tammy Duckworth, who uses a wheelchair herself and has in the past called for airlines to treat travellers’ mobility devices with greater respect and care, dubbed 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.

At the beginning of this year, Duckworth introduced the Prioritising Accountability and Accessibility for Aviation Consumers Act, which aimed to shed light on air travel complaints made by disabled travellers. This act would see the Department of Transportation publish detailed annual reports of airline complaints.

American Airlines is the biggest airline in the US. Photo / Supplied
American Airlines is the biggest airline in the US. Photo / Supplied

American Airlines said in a statement on Thursday that they are reviewing the video and will be taking “necessary next steps”.

“We recognise 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,” an airline spokesperson shared.

“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.”

They added 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.”

American Airlines ranked 13th out of 15 carriers when assessing incidents of mishandled wheelchairs, with 226 incidents reported that month alone, according to US Department of Transportation Data from August.


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