Treatment of Delta passenger in wheelchair under scrutiny

Credit: � 2018 Cox Media Group.

Credit: � 2018 Cox Media Group.

The treatment of a Delta Air Lines passenger in a wheelchair has come under scrutiny.

The passenger, Maria Saliagas, has multiple sclerosis and flew from Atlanta to Amsterdam earlier this month with her husband, according to their son Nathan Saliagas. They were connecting in Amsterdam on their way to Athens, Greece.

Upon landing in Amsterdam, they waited for an aisle wheelchair. Then, “When she reached outside the gate, she was transferred to a different chair,” according to her son.

He said his mother, due to her condition, was in pain and was falling over -- so she was tied to the wheelchair with a blanket.

A WSB-TV post on Facebook with a story on the incident generated more than 390 comments.

Nathan Saliagas said his family experienced a “similar and more severe incident” a couple of years ago, and Delta refunded the fares. This time, he said Delta offered 20,000 miles and told him they would not issue a refund. “That’s highly unethical,” Saliagas said in an e-mail. “It seemed as if the issue was being justified.”

In comments on Facebook, Saliagas says at home, his mother has "multiple different chairs," but "Delta has a legal obligation under their carriage contract and by federal law to provide these services since most aisle chairs aren't even allowed on board."

Passengers can request wheelchair service at airports through their airline, as Saliagas did. Atlanta-based Delta and other airlines often use contractors for wheelchair service.

In Europe, European Union law requires airlines use wheelchair services contracted by the airport, according to Delta. Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport's contractor is Axxicom Airport Caddy.

Schiphol's website says the airport "employs hundreds of Passenger Assistants... Amsterdam Airport Schiphol provides professional, customer-friendly assistance to passengers with a disability or reduced mobility." The airport's website says airlines and travel agencies pass on requests for assistance on to the airport.

The airport-contracted wheelchair vendor was at the gate to assist Saliagas, according to Delta. After getting off the plane and being transferred from the aisle chair to another selected wheelchair, Saliagas was uncomfortable and felt she was slipping. The blankets were used to secure her to the wheelchair, according to Delta.

“We are disappointed that our customers didn’t feel they had a well-cared-for travel experience and will ensure that their return flight exceeds expectations,” Delta said in a written statement. “While Delta always looks for ways to improve the overall customer experience, our findings do not align with details shared by the customer’s family.

Nathan Saliagas started a GoFundMe page after the incident, but later took it down after some criticism.

He said he is “advocating for significant change” in services for the disabled.

Websites with travel tips:

>>Tips for Traveling With a Wheelchair When You Have MS

>>Helping wheelchair users travel the world