“We don’t even allow Samsung phones, we definitely won’t allow that.”
Those skies just keep sounding unfriendlier.
A gay couple was recently forced to abandon a TSA-approved mobile device at Newark Liberty Airport before boarding. Trey Harris writes in a detailed post on Medium that he and his husband were traveling to catch a cruise and celebrate their honeymoon.
Harris has spondylitis, a type of spinal arthritis that makes walking difficult. He had phoned both United and the TSA prior to their flight to make sure that he would be able to board with his Segway miniPro, which helps him get around.
“I did everything right, according to both United and TSA’s disability policies,” he writes in the post.
But an error on his profile led to United employees forbidding him from boarding the plane with the device, which they deemed a “fire risk” and compared to a Hoverboard. “We don’t even allow Samsung phones, we definitely won’t allow that,” a manager told him.
United staffers remained firm in their decision, even after Harris provided proof that the Segway was UL-certified for fire safety. He also pulled up United’s website to show that Segways were allowed, along with wheelchairs, for passengers with special mobility needs.
Because gate-checking was not an option, Harris was forced to abandon the Segway at the gate and hobble aboard the flight using a cane.
“We take off, and my honeymoon starts with me sobbing for an hour, my husband consoling me,” he writes. “I felt humiliated, like all the passengers blamed me for the delay.”
Once they arrived at their destination, Harris had to rent a scooter for hundreds of dollars, including a last-minute surcharge. The heavy and cumbersome device prevented him from doing many activities that he and his husband had planned.
While on the cruise, Harris received a message that he had “abandoned a hazardous material at an international airport” and that its removal might cost him a fee. He was also warned that he could face arrest upon his return.
“I spent the rest of cruise terrified and stressed out,” he continued. He was not fined or arrested, however, and his Segway was eventually returned.
“An apology would be nice, but I’m not expecting miracles,” Harris writes. “I’d just like them—or another airline, if they refuse—to assure me I’ll be allowed to bring my mobility device with me the next time I fly.”
This story comes on the tailwind of last week’s scandal when a man was injured while being forcibly dragged from a United flight due to overbooking.