March 28, 2019

Duckworth's wheelchair-trashing rule begins to bite airlines

The first disclosure under the new measure reveals carriers damage an average of 25 wheelchairs every day—including the senator's. Twice.

Source: Crain's Chicago Business


It looks like Sen. Tammy Duckworth was onto something when she passed a new law requiring public disclosure of how often airlines damage customers' wheelchairs—including the senator's. Twice.

According to the first report from the U.S. Department of Transportation under the Duckworth rule, carriers reported damaging or breaking 701 wheelchairs and motorized scooters between Dec. 4 and Dec. 31, an average of more than 25 a day. Among the victims was, once again, Duckworth, a double-amputee Iraq war veteran. (The most recent damage "made it harder for her to navigate," her office said.)

Specifically, the report says Envoy Air was the worst, damaging nearly 15 percent of all the wheelchairs it handled during the period. American ranked next at 7.2 percent, followed by Southwest with  6.5 percent, but a footnote in the report suggested there may have been some first-month counting errors.

Chicago-based United said it mishandled just over 1 percent of wheelchairs and scooters.

“I know from personal experience that when an airline damages a wheelchair, it is more than a simple inconvenience—it’s a complete loss of mobility and independence,” Duckworth said in a statement. When it repeatedly happened to her, “It was the equivalent of taking my legs away from me again. No traveler should be left in the lurch, immobile on a plane.”

By:  Greg Hinz