San Jose, California (KERO) — The paraplegic head football coach for Independence High School is claiming he was forced to “scoot down the aisle [of a plane] on his butt” and off the plane after United Airlines denied him an aisle chair on multiple flights.
Tyler Schilhabel was injured in an ATV accident years ago and is disabled from the waist down. According to Schilhabel, he and his wife Courtney were traveling via United Airlines to the Dominican Republic for their honeymoon. Schilhabel says he booked his flights through Costco’s travel program, and was scheduled to travel from Los Angeles to the Dominican Republic with a connecting flight in Chicago. The Schilhabel’s were also scheduled for the same route coming home.
According to Schilhabel, when they landed, the plane did not have an aisle chair to transport him off the plane. Schilhabel says his wheelchair is too big to fit down the aisle of a plane. Schilhabel says United Airlines also did not have a ramp or elevator to help him off the plane and only had stairs. According to Schilhabel, he had to scoot down the aisle “on his butt” and then had to hop down “step by step” to get to his wheelchair.
Then on the Schilhabel’s connecting flight in Chicago after the honeymoon, United Airlines also did not have an aisle chair. This time, Schilhabel says he and his wife had seats in the back of the plane. Schilhabel says he had to “scoot all the way down on my butt.”
On one of the flights, one of the flight attendants picked Shilhabel up and carried him down the aisle so he could catch his connecting flight. When 23ABC spoke to Schilhabel, he called the whole experience “humiliating.”
Schilhabel says on his last six flights with United Airlines, they were either “late with getting an aisle chair” or did not have an aisle chair. He also claims this has happened to his friends as well, some of whom are disabled veterans.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), it is illegal for airlines to discriminate against passengers because of their disability. The Department of Transportation says airlines are also required to provide passengers with disabilities many types of assistance , including “wheelchair or other guided assistance to board, deplane, or connect to another flight; seating accommodation assistance that meets passengers’ disability-related needs; and assistance with the loading and stowing of assistive devices.”
According to the Department of Transportation, people with disabilities may be required to ask for a specific type of seating accommodation more than 24 hours in advance or to check in one hour before the standard check-in time for the flight.
He says that he notified United Airlines about the accommodations he would be needing in advance, as well as arrived to the airport with “ample” time to check-in. However, Schilhabel says he was still denied an aisle chair during three out of the four flights.
Both Schilhabel and his wife received a $1,000 flight voucher from United Airlines as well as an apology. However, Schilhabel says he will not accept the vouchers because he does not want to travel with United Airlines. Schilhabel says he was also asked by United Airlines to take down his Facebook post about the incident. When asked by 23ABC about if he would take down the post, Schilhabel said he would not so other people could learn about his experience.
When 23ABC reached out to United Airlines for a comment, we were directed to a section of their website regarding United-supplied wheelchair equipment .
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