- A viral TikTok showed a woman crying to Delta employees after she alleged they broke her wheelchair.
- The TikTok about the incident garnered over 13 million views.
- Delta apologized and said it was “conducting a full investigation” into the situation.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Delta Airlines apologized to a passenger after a viral TikTok showed her crying, alleging that her wheelchair was damaged by airline employees.
In the video, which was posted by a friend, DeFiebre can be seen sobbing while interacting with whom she said was a Delta employee at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The text over the video reads, “Today my heart broke watching my best friend sob because Delta broke her wheelchair. She kept repeating, ‘this is my life. This is the only way I can live my life.'”
The video amassed over 13 million views, two million likes, and 52,000 comments.
“I felt devastated and defeated,” Gabrielle DeFiebre, the woman from last Friday’s video, told Insider.
Several comments on the video tagged Delta, demanding they cover the costs of the damages.
“Unacceptable!” one person commented. “This is a woman’s life, and just as we live in comfortability, so should she.” Another person said, “Fix her chair or buy her a new one.”
In an interview with the Daily Dot, DeFiebre said she handed her wheelchair to airline personnel in “perfect condition” at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. However, when she landed in Phoenix, Arizona, she told the Daily Dot that her wheels were “warped and mangled.”
The company has apologized for the incident. “We’re so sorry that her wheelchair was damaged and have been in touch with her directly to make this right, including support to make repairs to her device,” Delta said in an emailed statement to Insider, which was first reported by Newsweek.
The company added, “We know our customers with disabilities rely on Delta for their travel needs, and we fell short here. We’re conducting a full investigation of what happened because we must be better.”
Wheelchairs being harmed during plane travel is not uncommon
Bri Scalesse, DeFiebre’s friend who posted the TikTok, added in the text of the video that people in wheelchairs live with “constant fear” of airlines mishandling their wheelchairs.
Among more than 300 wheelchairs and scooters mishandled by airlines in the US in March 2021, Delta accounted for 47 of them, according to the US Department of Transformation’s Monthly Air Travel Consumer Report.
The International Air Transport Association, an airline trade association, promised to improve its accessibility after the video was posted to Twitter. “We are sorry to see this situation. Mobility aids like these are so crucial for the mobility of these individuals,” the trade association said. “As an industry, we need to do better on this as everyone deserves access to safe and dignified travel.”
The association said in a subsequent tweet, “We are engaging the accessibility and aviation communities to better this situation for travelers with wheelchairs. The handling of mobility aids is a key area we are addressing for improvement, and there will be more news to come on this.”
—IATA (@IATA) May 25, 2021
Scalesse posted a video on Monday updating her followers on DeFiebre’s situation and said that Delta agreed to pay for replacement wheels. But, she said in the video, DeFiebre was left to find temporary replacement wheels on her own during her trip.
DeFiebre told Insider that a friend had a spare set of manual wheels that allowed her to get to her hotel, and another person gave her a set of power-assist wheels to help her get home, which she is currently using.
“It has been almost a week since my wheel was damaged, and Delta never provided a set of loaner wheels,” she said.
A spokesperson for Delta told Insider that the company was working with DeFiebre to repair her wheelchair.
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