Woman in wheelchair sues American Airlines after having to crawl onto plane

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015
Woman forced to crawl onto plane
A woman who says she was forced to crawl onto a plane is now suing American Airlines for damages.

A woman in a wheelchair has filed a lawsuit against American Airlines after she says she was forced to crawl onto a plane, KHON-TV reports.

Theresa Purcell was taking a commuter flight from San Diego when the agent at the gate told her it was too late to set up a ramp. Purcell has a neurological disorder known as Charcot-Marie-Tooth's disease that keeps her in a wheelchair. She says in order to board the flight, she was forced to get out her wheelchair and crawl up all the way to her seat, without any assistance from the airline.

"I (said) I can't walk up on the stairs, and then she was like, so how you going get on the plane then? And I was like, oh wow," Purcell told KHON-TV. "I crawled up onto the steps. I crawled into the plane. There was no other way for me to get on the plane so I crawled up to the plane."

"I was humiliated. It was embarrassing to have 50-something people watch you crawl into a plane"

The airline did apologize for the incident, releasing a statement to KHON-TV:

However, Purcell says the airline refused to compensate her for her flight.

Purcell frequently travels and says she's never had this type of problem before. Now, she's suing to make sure it doesn't happen again.

"You wouldn't want to watch your family member crawl on to a plane. I mean, come on, this is America," Purcell told KHON-TV. "I'm just saying there's always a way."

The lawsuit seeks a $2.5 million settlement, but Purcell's attorney tells KHON-TV if the case goes to trial, she'll seek between $6 and $8 million.

American Airlines has not commented on the pending legal action.