A quadriplegic passenger is suing Delta Air Lines and Aeromexico over allegations that airline staff dropped her as they tried to transfer her from the airplane seat to her wheelchair, causing severe injury that required an extended stay in the hospital and surgery that racked up a medical bill of more than $400,000.
Yesenia Compean filed a lawsuit in an Atlanta district court last week and is claiming damages under the Montreal Convention – an international treaty that makes airlines liable for injuries sustained by passengers, as well as property damage and lost baggage during cross-border flights.
As a disabled traveler, Yesenia says she put her trust in Delta and Aeromexico to get her and her wheelchair safely to Tampico on a journey that started in Atlanta with a connection in Mexico City in March 2022.
The journey started off without a hitch, and Yesenia was safely transferred to the airplane seat while her electric wheelchair was handed over to Delta to put in the cargo hold of the plane, as is standard practice.
On arrival in Mexico City, however, Yesenia says the staff Delta employed to transfer her from the airplane seat to a wheelchair failed to take ‘reasonable care’ and ended up dropping her onto the floor of the airplane aisle, causing severe injury to her skin and buttocks.
Yesenia says she sustained even more injuries as the hapless staff continued to transfer her to a temporary wheelchair.
Nonetheless, Yesenia was able to continue her journey to Tampico only to then find that her electric wheelchair had been ‘extensively damaged’. It’s not known at what stage of the journey the wheelchair was damaged.
Many disabled travelers use bespoke custom-built wheelchairs, and needing to use a temporary loan wheelchair while repairs are carried out on their own mobility device can not only be uncomfortable but also cause injury and long-term health issues.
The US Department of Transportation has reported a dramatic increase in the number of disability-related air travel complaints, with 356 complaints filed in the first two months of 2023 – a 57% increase in the number of complaints the department received in the same period in 2022.
For the first nine months of 2023, Delta was the second-best US airline in handling wheelchairs and scooters, reporting a mishandled rate of just 0.69 per 100 wheelchairs enplaned.
In comparison, the worst offender, Spirit Airlines, had a mishandled rate of 5.83.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.