Delta forgot to put the passenger’s wheelchair on the flight to Ireland from New York

  • Delta employees forgot to accommodate a passenger’s wheelchair on his flight from New York to Dublin.
  • Tim Kelly’s customized wheelchair arrived in Dublin after just two days.
  • Kelly told Insider that she plans to fly over 3,000 miles back home to get a spare seat.

A passenger had to spend two days on holiday without his wheelchair after staff forgot to load it on his flight from New York to Dublin.

Staff at John F. Kennedy International Airport tagged Tim Kelly’s customized wheelchair for his flight on Saturday, July 2, and Kelly rode the chair all the way to the plane’s door.

But after the flight arrived in Dublin the next morning, Delta officials learned that Kelly’s wheelchair had not been loaded onto the plane.

“Being in a wheelchair, you’re always the last person to get off the plane, so they were just waiting for my chair to come up,” Kelly told Insider. “And then they said, ‘We don’t have your chair.’

Kelly said officials weren’t sure where it was and thought it might have gone to baggage claim. After a while it became clear that he was not in Dublin.

“It looks like my chair was tagged by the gate agent, but she never scanned the tag,” Kelly said. “So my name was never associated with the chair, it seems, or my destination.”

In a statement to Insider, Delta apologized for misplacing Kelly’s wheelchair, saying, “We consider a wheelchair an extension of a person and understand that any mishandling of this mobility device directly affects their daily lives.”

Kelly told Insider Delta that staff provided him with a chair that had no edges, meaning he couldn’t move on his own. Kennedy Airport officials later contacted him to say they had found his chair and would put him on the next flight to arrive in Dublin the next morning.

“So the plane arrives at approximately 9 o’clock in the morning,” Kelly told Insider. “And then they called me, ‘We don’t have your chair again.’

“For some reason, JFK sent him to Boston,” Kelly said.

Tim Kelly's wheelchair

Kelly’s titanium manual wheelchair, made by TiLite, was not brought with him to Dublin.

Courtesy of Tim Kell


The Delta flight from Boston to Dublin was scheduled to arrive about an hour earlier than the flight from Kennedy Airport.

“It sounds like JFK potentially made a judgment call to get him in early to me,” Kelly said. “So they marked him to go to Boston and then Boston never turned him on the night flight to come to Dublin.”

Kelly said he found it difficult to explore Dublin in the replacement chair the airline gave him.

“It was hard enough for me to walk two blocks on a Sunday night to go to a restaurant,” he said.

He said he even considered flying home, taking his spare wheelchair and driving back to Dublin, a round trip of more than 6,000 miles.

After his own chair failed to arrive Monday, Delta offered to get him an electric wheelchair for his trip, something he said was “not me.”

“Being put in a wheelchair that’s either electric or someone has to push me, I’m uncomfortable at that point,” he said. “At this point you have robbed me of all dignity to sit in such a chair.”

Both Kelly and Delta contacted a company in Dublin that supplied his brand of chairs, and on Monday afternoon he was able to get hold of one similar to his. Kelly said Delta paid the rent for the chair, which was about $700 for two days.

Then Kelly’s chair arrived on Tuesday.

But on the flight back to New York, the handlers accidentally “broke one of my hand brakes on the chair,” Kelly told Insider.

He said this happens from time to time and is easy to fix, adding that Delta is footing the bill.

In May, US airlines “mishandled” 1.53 percent of wheelchairs and scooters taken on flights, according to data from the Department of Transportation.

Staff in Dublin — whom Kelly called “fantastic” — offered Kelly, his wife and two children $1,000 each in Delta Choice vouchers, an email reviewed by Insider shows. Delta staff on the plane and at the airport also gave him 37,500 SkyMiles, he said.

But Kelly asked Delta for more compensation.

In an email reviewed by Insider, Delta later offered Kelly and his family 20,000 SkyMiles each as a “goodwill gesture,” then told him that his case was considered closed and that he would not be receiving any more compensation offers .

A one-way ticket from Kennedy Airport to Dublin in late August can cost around 60,000 SkyMiles per person.

“I’m going to squeeze them hard,” Kelly said.

Have you been affected by the current travel disruptions? Or do you work at an airport or for an airline that is overwhelmed by staffing chaos and cancellations? Email this reporter at [email protected]

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