The Washington Post reports Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin was denied boarding on a Lufthansa flight, despite assurances he would be allowed to travel without issue.
“Let’s Call This What it is – Discrimination Against People with Disabilities”
The issue happened on a scheduled flight in August 2022 with the U.S. Navy to visit military bases. According to his account, Navy officials spoke with Lufthansa before the flight to ensure everything would go smoothly. Company representatives assured staff there would be no problem allowing the representative to board.
However, once at the airport, Langevin says he was denied boarding on his flight over his wheelchair. The issue was focused on the lithium-ion battery powering his mobility device. While the lightweight batteries are preferred for most mobility devices, cheaper ones have been used in other products, including “hoverboards,” which have caught fire on aircraft.
Although Federal Aviation Administration regulations allow flyers using a mobility device to travel with a lithium-ion battery-powered device, the gate staff did not allow the legislator to travel. One month later, he took to Twitter to explain his frustrations with the process.
My wheelchair uses a type of lithium-ion battery which @FAANews has deemed safe to fly.
I had proof that the battery is cleared to travel. I even called the inventor of my wheelchair to explain the safety guidelines to the airline staff.
And still, I wasn’t allowed to board.
— Jim Langevin (@JimLangevin) September 12, 2022
“Let’s call this what it is – discrimination against people with disabilities,” Langevin wrote on Twitter. “It’s frustrating, exhausting, and it’s happening to countless airline passengers with disabilities, most of whom are not members of Congress accompanied by the U.S. Navy.”
In a statement, Lufthansa apologized for the mistake. A spokesperson for the German airline said there had been “challenges when it comes to customers traveling with lithium batteries,” and the gate staff misinterpreted the guidelines.”
Although Langevin was allowed to travel on a later flight when an aide retrieved another wheelchair from his home, he noted that most people do not have that liberty. He called for the passing of his proposed bill to strengthen protections for disabled travelers in the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act.
Issue Latest Row Between Disabled Travelers and Airlines
The situation is just the latest example of travelers with mobility devices facing issues when it comes to air travel. In 2021, a TikTok video went viral when a flyer accused Delta Air Lines of destroying her wheelchair in travel, while the weight of mobility devices was the focus of a 2020 issue with American Airlines.
Source: frugal travel guy