CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FOX 46) – A couple stayed overnight in their wheelchairs for more than 10 hours waiting for a connecting flight at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. When one of them got up out of his wheelchair, he fell and hurt himself.
The couple, Clarence and Carol Marler were traveling home to Oklahoma City from Fayetteville with a layover in Charlotte. Their son says they were left unattended in their wheelchairs and ended up missing their flight before his dad fell.
“This shouldn’t have happened. This shouldn’t have happened,” Scott Marler told FOX 46.
“My parents slept in wheelchairs in the airport until 8:00 this morning until they got a connecting flight to Oklahoma,” he said
The couple, flying American Airlines, requested wheelchair assistance for their hour-long connection in Charlotte.
“It’s really upsetting,” Marler said holding back tears.
Marler says his dad fell getting off a moving walkway in the airport after the couple missed their flight.
Now, back in Oklahoma, Marler’s parents plan to head to the hospital, while their son vows to get answers from the airline.
“They need to call and make this right. Now,” he said, “and apologize or it’s going to get ugly.”
How ugly can it really get, though?
“The DOT, I think, is really taken a back seat to enforcement and that’s allowing airlines to do as they will,” said John Morris, Wheelchairtravel.com founder.
He says disabled passengers don’t have much recourse under the law.
“The ACAA is the only Civil Rights law that cannot be enforced by the individual and that is concerning to me,” he said.
American Airlines offered the couple a hotel room, which they declined, saying they were afraid they wouldn’t get help with transportation back to the airport.
American Airlines tells FOX 46 its team reached out to the Marlers to apologize for their travel nightmare saying, “American Airlines has reached out to the Marlers to apologize for their recent travel experience and has begun a thorough investigation to address the reported service issue. As part of our commitment to care for all people on life’s journey, American provides complimentary special assistance to customers, upon request. Our team is working with our wheelchair service vendor to determine what went wrong and how we can improve our process moving forward.”
The company added its team is working to learn more about the couple’s travel experience and to determine why the Marlers misconnected.