Disabled Woman Falls To The Ground During Seat Transfer On American Airlines

**Update 03/07/20 @16:56UTC – Story clarified to indicate that a flight attendant was not involved in the incident**

A routine trip turned into an unfortunate event for one American Airlines passenger. Ms. Hunter Adkins, a quadriplegic, suffered an unfortunate incident after what appears to be an inflight slip-up on the part of the wheelchair services crew.

American 737
A routine flight on American Airlines took an unfortunate turn for a quadriplegic passenger. Photo: Getty Images

An unfortunate turn of events for an American Airlines passenger

Hunter Adkins was flying from Austin, Texas, to Colorado for a ski trip when the incident occurred per a report from KVUE in Austin. Ms. Adkins and her caretaker were on the flight when Ms. Adkins was being led to her seat an American Airlines aircraft.

American interior
The incident happened onboard an American Airlines flight. Photo: American Airlines

During the transfer, however, it appears that Ms. Adkins did not receive the support she needed from the ground services contractor that handles wheelchair transfers. And, unfortunately, she fell to the floor of the aircraft and suffered some injuries. Ms. Adkins indicated that the incident led to some weird looks and humiliation— something she said no one should feel.

Simple Flying reached out to American Airlines for comment who provided the following statement:

We sincerely apologize to Ms. Adkins for what she went through during this trip. Her experience does not reflect the care we strive to show each and every one of our customers, regardless of their needs, and we regret that we didn’t meet her expectations — or our own ― in this instance. We are working closely with our vendor to determine what went wrong in this circumstance, and we are committed to doing better. Our mission is to ensure customers of all abilities have a positive travel experience when they fly with American Airlines.

The airline did work with Ms. Adkins to refund the cost of the tickets for her and her caretaker.

Traveling with a disability

While the airline industry has taken positive steps to improve accessibility, anyone who travels with a passenger who needs additional assistance will recognize that, at times, the airline industry is not yet up to speed as a whole.

Passenger Wheelchair
The airline industry does have some work to do when it comes to passengers needing extra assistance. Photo: Getty Images

However, there are clear lapses at times when it comes to airline handling of passengers needing extra assistance whether it be due to age or a disability. Sometimes, wheelchair services are understaffed and operators find themselves working extra hours. At other times, systems do not communicate across airlines and it may take extra time off a connection for a passenger who waits for a wheelchair or needs to take more time to board or deplane.

In addition, flight attendants are sometimes unprepared for dealing with passengers who do need extra assistance inside the cabin. Already, aircraft are more confined spaces than most environments.


This is an unfortunate incident for Ms. Adkins. However, this should be a learning moment for all airlines when it comes to working with passengers who have disabilities or need additional assistance onboard the aircraft.

What do you make of this incident? Let us know in the comments!