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A Tulsa, Oklahoma resident is speaking out after American Airlines sent his expensive and personalized electric wheelchair on the wrong flight, leaving him stranded.
Emeka Nnaka, a popular differently-abled mental health therapist who gives speeches to crowds across the country, is still suffering from aches and pains after American Airlines sent his $45,000 electric wheelchair on the wrong flight.
Upon returning to Tulsa after attending Art Basal in Miami, Nnaka was forced to wait nearly 12 hours at an Austin airport in uncomfortable makeshift chairs after airport staff informed him they’d lost his electric wheelchair.
“As a wheelchair user, this is a position you never want to be in,” Nnaka said in an Instagram post on Sunday.
The ordeal began when Nnaka arrived at the Miami International Airport for a connecting flight to Austin before reaching his final destination in Tulsa. Arriving at the Miami gate, he was informed that he was too late and that the flight would be taking off without him. Waiting nearly 12 hours in the airport in excruciatingly uncomfortable chairs, Nnaka finally boarded a flight.
Yet when he reached Austin, American Airlines informed him that his chair wasn’t on the flight. Staff told him that his chair would meet him in Tulsa, but when he arrived, his chair wasn’t there either.
“It’s a huge part of my daily living,” Emeka Nnaka told The Black Wall Street Times. Calling it his “legs,” Nnaka uses his personalized chair to get around, to drive, and even to workout.
American Airlines under fire
The 6’5’’ former football star said he felt outraged and humiliated as airport staff were forced to “parade” him around in two makeshift wheelchairs as he waited for hours at the Austin airport.
Nnaka was forced to wait yet again for hours at the Tulsa International Airport before his electric wheelchair finally arrived.
Nnaka said he was outraged when American Airlines offered him a few hundred dollars in air travel credits.
“You offer me a hundred dollars as if that is going to make me feel better?”
As someone who counsels others and inspires even more to lead their best lives, Nnaka said he didn’t want to be vocal about his frustration. But when American Airlines offered him a few hundred bucks in response, his outrage boiled over.
“To me the response after a mistake is the most important thing,” Nnaka told The Black Wall Street Times.
“For anyone that would go through this, does $400 dollars make up for the fact of being ridden through the airport the way I was paraded through Austin and became a spectacle. Does $400 make up for feeling less of a human being?”
Nnaka questioned whether the $400 offer from American Airlines makes up for the anxiety he endured wondering if his “legs” would be returned to him, or the aches and pains he continues to suffer due to being placed in chairs unsuitable for his size.
“I think more needs to be done in regards to how airlines transport people with disabilities. It’s not about transporting cargo. You’re in the business of transporting people and people with different ways of getting around.
American Airlines sent a response to Tulsa’s News Channel 6 after the ordeal.
“We strive to deliver a positive travel experience for all of our customers and recognize how important it is to support the independence of customers with disabilities as they travel. We sincerely apologize to Mr. Nnaka for the delay in receiving his assistive device. A member of our team has reached out to the customer to apologize and learn more about his experience.”
Moving forward, Emeka Nnaka said he would like to speak with American Airlines executives about how to do a better job of supporting accessibility for differently-abled people.
“If you’re gonna tell me that every customer is important, then you’re gonna have to show me that every customer is important, from those that can get on by themselves, to those that need assistance.”