American Airlines offers apology to man who says wheelchair damaged, left behind

BOSTON — American Airlines is offering an apology to the Marblehead native who says the power wheelchair he relies on was damaged on one flight and then left behind by another.

Matt Wetherbee departed out of Logan Airport on Sunday. He told Boston 25 News he was floored by what an American Airlines crew told him in Charlotte, North Carolina while boarding a connecting flight to Louisville, Kentucky.

According to Wetherbee, the crew told him his power wheelchair, which cost about $60,000, didn’t fit on the aircraft.

“I said, ‘you realize I cannot stay overnight. I don’t have the proper supplies or help, and this is my only way of getting anywhere,’” Wetherbee explained.

Wetherbee ended up flying to Louisville without his power wheelchair. He said the experience was humiliating and stripped him of his independence. He told Boston 25 News it was sent to him 19 hours after touchdown but that it was broken and still can’t be used.

“I already have a feeling of helplessness. Watching the person you love not being able to do anything for himself is like a personal hell,” said Kaitlyn Kiely, Matt’s wife.

Boston 25 News first reached out to American Airlines about the claims on Monday night. A spokesperson initially sent the following statement:

“What you’ve shared concerns us and doesn’t reflect American’s care for our customers. Our team will look into this and is reaching out to the customer to better understand his experience.”

American Airlines sent an additional statement to Boston 25 News on Tuesday afternoon:

“We strive to provide a safe and enjoyable experience to all of our customers, including those who fly with wheelchairs and assistive devices, and we sincerely regret that Mr. Wetherbee had a negative experience with us. Our team is looking into this, and we have reached out to him to apologize and understand what occurred.”

“If we let this go, it’s going to keep happening to somebody else, and it’s never going to change,” Kiely said.

The couple believes American Airlines violated federal law by loading the luggage onto the plane before the power wheelchair. They told Boston 25 News they still aren’t sure if they will receive any compensation for the damaged wheelchair.

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