United ‘destroyed’ custom wheelchair worth $42K, says passenger
A man suffering arrived at his destination to find that parts of his wheelchair were broken while in United’s care. (iStock)
It’s every passenger’s fear that an airline will mishandle their luggage, so just imagine how one flyer felt upon learning that United had mangled his $42,000 custom wheelchair.
Valentin Duthion, a 24-year-old French man suffering from spinal muscular atrophy, disembarked his flight from France to New Jersey on July 2 only to find that United had “destroyed” his wheelchair ahead of a 27-day trip to the United States with friends, according to his sister Lucie.
“This is how @united airline accompanies persons with disabilities,” wrote Lucie on Twitter, via a translation from French news outlet Le Progrès. “Armchair destroyed (37.000 euro), trip to the USA wasted.”
In a video that accompanied the tweet, the other members of Duthion’s travel group — which goes by the name Dream Trotter — can he heard discussing the damage to what appears to be a United employee.
Lucie later told Le Progrès that her brother’s chair had been rendered “unusable” due to mangled wheels, a disconnected assistance box, damaged cylinders and a twisted steering handle.
In a statement obtained by Fox News, a representative for United claims they’re in contact with Valentin’s group, and that the airline is making every effort to rectify this situation.
“Our goal is to provide great service for our customers during their entire journey, and it concerns us deeply anytime we fall short,” United in a statement obtained by Fox News.
“We have been in contact with our customer, and provided him with a loaner wheelchair to use during his vacation. We have arranged for the chair’s repair and have upgraded the customer and his travel companions for their return flight.”
Lucie, however, claimed that Valentin was offered a loaner wheelchair that was “not at all adapted” to his needs — his custom chair reduced his pain, and had much better battery life, she says — but Valentin took it anyway after United gave the group an “ultimatum.”
“If we refused, we had to sign a waiver stating that we refused the help of United Airlines,” Lucie told Le Progrès.
Valentin’s chair in currently in the care of United, which is arranging for its repair. In the meantime, however, Valentin has already had trouble with the loaner.
During one of their first stops in New York, Lucie said the group “had to push this 200-kilogram (441-pound) wheelchair for miles after a breakdown." She also claims they’ve already swapped out the chair for a manual version.
A representative for United declined to confirm the chair would be back in Valentin’s possession. According to Dream Trotter’s Facebook page, they believe he’ll be getting it back by the end of the trip.
Regardless, the group seems to be making the most of their vacation, having already updated their Facebook page with posts from New York and San Fracisco.