A disabled gay man claims United Airlines made him relinquish his mobility device before boarding his flight, and says the experience totally destroyed his honeymoon.
Trey Harris isn’t able to walk on his own due to his autoimmune spiral arthritis, so he uses a Segway and cane in order to move around.
Related: United Airlines’ very bad week gets dragged hard on Twitter
He says that while preparing to take a JoCo cruise, he alerted United Airlines that he’d be brining along the mobility devcie during his travels.
Writing on Medium, Harris claims:
The United rep then transferred me to the TSA disability services desk to get the OK from them as well; TSA made a notation and told me who to contact if we had any trouble getting through security. TSA then sent me an email to confirm.
Upon arriving at the gate, they were nevertheless told they couldn’t bring the device onto the plane.
After speaking to the rep, the gate agent said a “manager” had to decide. We waited a bit—by this time, everyone in the gate area had boarded—then the manager came and said no. ‘We don’t allow hoverboards, they’re fire risks.
I explained that it’s a Segway, not a hoverboard, it’s UL-certified for fire safety (with a hologram-seal certification on bottom stating this?—?I showed it to them), and one has never spontaneously combusted like those cheap hoverboards everyone was buying a couple years ago did. You could buy one on Amazon, even after they announced they wouldn’t sell hoverboards anymore.
The manager was unswayed. “We don’t even allow Samsung phones, we definitely won’t allow that.” (I did not point out that I hadn’t seen anyone asked to show their phone at the gate, and so how did he know there wasn’t a Samsung phone on board?)
Ultimately, after the scuffle delayed the flight, Harris gave in and agreed to leave the Segway behind.
Finally, as they’re about to close the doors (were they really going to push off with all our things onboard?), I pointed to it and said, “What if I just left it right here,” in front of the gate?—?“will you let us board without it?” The gate agent grumbles that we could’ve done that at the start without all this trouble, and then lets us board?—?me hobbling on my cane down the jetway. We take off, and my honeymoon starts with me sobbing for an hour, my husband consoling me. I felt humiliated, like all the passengers blamed me for the delay.
While on the trip, Harris had to purchase a scooter that cost hundreds of dollars of rent — and he was threatened with arrest for abandoning his Segway at the gate. (He ultimately wasn’t arrested.)
I’ve since done more research and can find no reason whatsoever that this should have happened. I did everything I was supposed to. I had the policies and regulations behind me. I’ve sent a letter—a real, paper letter, since I hear that gets better results—to United Airlines, but so far have heard nothing.
I don’t care if United Airlines compensates me, not even for the scooter rental. An apology would be nice, but I’m not expecting miracles. I’d just like them?—?or another airline, if they refuse?—?to assure me I’ll be allowed to bring my mobility device with me the next time I fly.
h/t: Unicorn Booty
May I suggest the use of the magic phrase when ever confronted with a recalcitrant employee, even a manager: “May I speak to your supervisor, please?”
Even better, he can get started, and start a fire, by writing to his congressperson/senator about this, and tell said representative to have TSA lay off of people, and also (if possible) to get rid of the TSA altogether-terrorism can be stopped better than by doing crap like this.
This kind of event (as well as the electing of Trump as POTUS) is why people aren’t coming to the USA anymore. Even more than that, it also shows why the USA (and Canada) needs to get high speed rail built and running all over the continent, so that bullshit like this won’t be happening.
@Neville: The ever-picky TSA was actually okay with it. (This account is a little unclear, but the incident has been in the news a lot.) He contacted TSA ahead of time to ask, and they said a Segway was fine. At airport security, TSA was again cool with it. He also contacted United ahead of time and they also said a Segway was fine. But then after he got thru TSA and got to the gate, United suddenly decided no. Apparently they didn’t even know what it was, since they thought it was a hoverboard!
United is just batting a thousand on the PR front lately.
Not to nitpick, though, but why is an article about United Airlines accompanied by a picture of the Delta Air Lines ticketing area at what looks like the Minneapolis airport?
I’m a little confused, what does this have to do with United when it was the TSA that stopped him and made him give up the device to board. United doesn’t control the TSA and their agents.
Ignore this comment – I misread it the first time thru
This isn’t a United issue, it’s an FAA regulation. Lithium Ion batteries greater then 160 watt hours can not brought on board due to fire risk. You can’t even get a replacement Segway battery shipped to you via air, it has be delivered via ground. United was right for not allowing a Segway on board, but could have communicate this better or earlier.
You should read the guy’s entire article. He makes mention of the battery issue and even links to United’s own policy concerning his device.
TSA aren’t the brightest bulbs. Scooters and Wheelchairs are allowed and typically use lead acid batteries. Segway 2 uses a lithium ion battery which is over the FAA limits.
United policy is likely out of date with FAA regulations
A device with a lithium ion battery that exceeds 160 watt hours (Wh) is prohibited as carry-on or checked baggage.
Most board-type self-balancing scooters have a watt hour rating of about 158.4 Wh (36 volts x 4.4 Amp hours).
Most unicycle scooters and Segway-type scooters have a battery that exceeds 160 Wh, and thus are prohibited.
Even under wheelchair policy you’d have problems. Segway 2 has 2 200 WH batteries. he’d have to disconnect one, and couldn’t carry on the second one.
The 160 watt hour rule applies to consumer electronics, not adaptive devices.
u an employee of United or something?
Sorry he had the problems but after dealing with conflicting responses from United (and other airlines) and TSA, there’s no way I would have ever relied on someone saying it was “ok” via email or whatever. I’ve had two United agents in the same airport telling me I could do one thing (boarding an earlier flight when my bag was checked on later) and then another saying “that rule doesn’t exist.”
Airlines don’t care about customers, what trip they’ve ruined or how much they’ve inconvenienced their customers.
So, did a little research. The Segway in question would be covered by the The Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 (ACAA), 49 USC 41705. That leads us to 14 CFR 382.127, which states, “Whenever baggage compartment size and aircraft airworthiness considerations do not prohibit doing so, you must, as a carrier, accept a passenger’s battery-powered wheelchair or other similar mobility device, including the battery, as checked baggage…” There is more stuff, but, essentially, if the aircraft can handle the weight, they must accept the device even if the battery exceeds the limits for consumer electronic devices. There must even be a space to store the device.
If I may suggest, this is similar to a rule forbidding pets on the plane. The airline can do that, but it still must allow service dogs on the plane. Additionally, rules does prohibit lithium ion batteries as cargo on a passenger plane, but such batteries are shipped regularly on cargo planes. Hence, the availability of two-day delivery on Amazon.
So, the airline official was wrong, the lithium ion battery issue is a red herring and only applies to consumer electronic devices, but there isn’t a decent little lawsuit here due to Alexander v. Sandoval, 532 U.S. 275 (2001). The passenger must rely upon the DOT to stick up for his rights. The new Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, is actually one of the very few Trump appointees who is not completely unqualified. She is actually rather decent and may well pursue the matter.
My husband and I were on the same cruise as Trey. We spoke with him about it at some length during the cruise. He was obviously upset. He went through ALL the hoops with United corporate and the TSA weeks ahead of time. He had names, phone numbers, letters, emails and everything. He is clearly handicapped and can only walk about 15-ft without his wheels. He cleared TSA without a hitch. It was the gate agent and flight crew that were being difficult. They got it stuck in their head that it was a hover board; no amount of reasoning and showing approval docs would sway them.
The real pisser for him was the repeated threatening phone messages they left during the cruise. He needed to contact them tomorrow. They we’re going to have him arrested. They were going to contract a “HazMat” team to remove the Segway from the jetway, and he would be responsible for the cost, etc., etc. If you’ve ever been on a cruise you know cell phones don’t work.
They had absolutely no sympathy for his being handicapped or the circumstances. They were dicks from the start.
time for people to give this asshole airline a miss….hope they go broke.
This article is seriously confusing.
So the guy is just going to “abandon” his Segway at the gate? Sheesh, how much does it cost? Any arrangements to impound it or have a friend retrieve it?
I’d think United would agree to take it as checked baggage (not as “carry-on”).
It might not be true, but a little of this story sounds like someone looking for trouble….perhaps just the way it’s written.
Oh, and why is the stock photo of Delta?
It seems that the United corporate culture just cannot progress into the 21st century. Homophobia is no longer fashionable. That airline needs te be completely dissolved and rebuilt with intelligent rational executives.
I hope that Queerty forwards the comments section to Munoz and the United board for enlightenment.
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