ORLANDO, Fla. — United Airlines is the target of a new lawsuit in Orlando that accuses the company’s staff of taking a wheelchair away from a man who fell afterward.
Palm Bay resident Greg Woienski was 65 when he tried flying United from Orlando International Airport to Newark on Feb. 26, 2017, for his father’s funeral, according to the suit filed recently in federal court.
“After he cleared the jet way, plaintiff’s wheelchair was taken away, and he was forced to move on his own locomotion to his seat,” the suit says, adding that he also had to step over the threshold by himself. “Almost immediately after plaintiff entered the airplane, he fell in a violent fashion, suffering a fractured spine, along with several other major injuries.”
United’s media office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit. The airline’s policy for people with disabilities says it is “dedicated to providing convenient and comfortable service to all of our customers.”
Woienski’s attorney Andre G. Raikhelson said he sent various letters or emails to United but “they have not responded to any of our requests, and have simply ignored us.”
United has been dogged by high-profile claims of passenger abuse in recent years. It was April last year when infamous video footage showed officers dragging bloodied passenger David Dao off a plane in Chicago.
Last summer, a lawsuit was filed that alleged 73-year-old Robert Tigner was shoved to the ground by a United worker, in Houston. That was also caught on security cameras. That suit sought $1 million from United to help cover his medical expenses. Woienski’s lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount for damages.
Woienski’s traveler information stated that he needs a wheelchair for locomotion, the suit says. He allegedly has not recovered from his injuries.
United’s website says it offers aisle wheelchairs for “transferring non-ambulatory customers to and from their seats on the aircraft” and says every aircraft with more than 60 seats has an onboard wheelchair, specially designed to fit the aisle, and that personnel are “trained in the use of this wheelchair and will assist you.”
Woienski, now 66, had also sought donations through a campaign on GoFundMe.com to raise money for the trip. He raised $1,755 from the campaign, according to the website. He said he had found a bereavement fare for $403, while his fiancé was paying close to $600 for her ticket.
“My father passed away on February 21st in hospice. He was 98, a WWII veteran. He is to be buried in Cranford, New Jersey, this Monday the 27th, with military honors,” Woienski wrote on the website. He added that he was on permanent disability, and relied on crutches to get around.
“Whatever you can afford to help me get to my dad’s funeral would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your kindness,” Woienski wrote.