'We are people': Raleigh woman pushes for more travel protections after airline damages wheelchair

Diane Wilson Image
Thursday, June 8, 2023
Airline damages Raleigh woman's wheelchair
A recent flight left Ali Ingersoll, a Raleigh woman with quadriplegia, without the use of her power wheelchair.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A recent flight left Ali Ingersoll, a Raleigh woman with quadriplegia, without the use of her power wheelchair.

It was damaged in transit, and she said her experience is not unique.

"It is heartbreaking to me because we are people. We want to be independent. We want to travel safely," Ingersoll tells Troubleshooter Diane Wilson.

The damage to her wheelchair happened on a recent flight as she was heading back from Costa Rica. For her 40th birthday, she decided to take the trip of a lifetime with friends. She went scuba diving and zip lining in the tropical paradise that is Costa Rica.

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"It profoundly impacted me where I realized growing older in a wheelchair -- my years a getting numbered with the medical complications I'm going to be dealing with," she said.

Flying with her power wheelchair is always a risk, as it must be checked. She said she always worries about damage during transit. To protect it, she brought packing materials and wrapped her power wheelchair in bubble wrap.

"I built a whole box around (it.) I flipped my joystick to the right side, bubble wrapped, boxed, with all kinds of Velcro on it and then we shrink-wrapped it," Ingersoll said.

Her power chair made it to Costa Rica with no damage, but on the return flight to the US, as soon as she spotted it in the luggage area she knew she had a problem.

"Wow, stop. This is not the way I left it. We started unwrapping everything and pieces just started falling off," she recalled.

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Ingersoll documented all of the damages and filed a claim with the airline, Delta. Wilson also contacted Delta, who did not get back to ABC11, but did send Ingersoll a letter that apologized for the difficulties and stated that Delta complies with the Air Carrier Access Act by returning assistive devices to their owners in the same condition as provided to the airline, but in this case admit in the letter Delta failed in fulfilling this policy.

Delta covered the repairs of Ingersoll's power wheelchair and also issued her a travel credit of $200 as a gesture of concern and goodwill.

While this case is resolved, Ingersoll said the experience motivates her, even more, to continue to advocate for those with disabilities. She holds the title of Ms. Wheelchair America 2023 and plans to travel to Washington D.C. later in June with United Spinal Association to push for amendments to the Air Carrier Access Act in hopes of providing better protections in cases like this for those flying with a disability.