Disabled Woman Sues Airline For Forcing Her To Crawl Onto The Plane

Theresa Purcell is suing American Airlines for $2.5 million.

A wheelchair bound hip-hop artist is suing a U.S. airline for their alleged dehumanizing and humiliating conduct.

Theresa Purcell was boarding a commuter flight to San Diego in one of the American Airlines plane when the staff informed her that they were unable to provide her the wheelchair ramp, she says.

The airline staff allegedly told the 33-year-old that it was too late for them to set up the ramp, which meant she had to get out of the wheelchair and board the plane on her own. Since Purcell suffers from a rare, debilitating bone disease and is unable to walk, she had to crawl from the gate all the way to her seat in front of more than 50 passengers.

“I was humiliated. It was embarrassing to have 50-something people watch you crawl into a plane," she explained. "Is today another time where I have to climb onto an airplane again, where all these people have to watch me embarrass myself again, and I gotta be there, hoping please, I hope I never see these people again?”

Being a hip-hop artist, Purcell flies quite frequently and makes regular requests for wheelchair ramps. However, this was the first time she traveled with American Airlines.

She claims she has requested the ramp ahead of time, and was shocked when they told her it was too late to accommodate the request.

“There was a ramp right next to the plane and she was like, ‘Oh, it’s too late,’ so I was like ‘OK, so we can’t just – the ramp is right there. Can’t you guys just push it right here so I can get on?’” said Purcell, adding, “The woman was like, ‘Oh, I’m sorry.’”

The company has apologized for their failure to provide Purcell the assistance she required, but the woman believes an apology isn’t enough of a compensation for the humiliation and embarrassment she experienced. To ensure that something like this doesn’t happen again, and reportedly to teach them a lesson, she has filed a lawsuit of $2.5 million against the carriers.

“On behalf of U.S. Airways and American Airlines, please accept our apologies for the difficulties Ms. Purcell experienced with her request for level entry boarding,” airline spokeswoman Christy Garden wrote in the apology letter.

“We regret that a ramp was not requested so Ms. Purcell would be able to board the aircraft without going up the stairs, assistance should have been provided shortly thereafter. Based on what you have shared, it appears our employees didn’t provide the attentive, courteous and professional service we expect as a company.”

Purcell’s attorney wrote a letter asking for compensation, which the airline denied.

The company admits “they were in violation of CFR 14 Part 382” – an act that demand airlines to provide assistance requested by a customer with a disability to board and disembark. Purcell is suing the company under the very same act.

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