- Delta staff forgot to put a passenger's wheelchair on his flight from New York to Dublin.
- Tim Kelly's custom-fitted wheelchair didn't arrive in Dublin for another two days.
- Kelly told Insider he considered flying over 3,000 miles back home to pick up a spare chair.
A passenger had to spend two days on vacation without his wheelchair after staff forgot to load it onto his flight from New York to Dublin.
Staff at John F. Kennedy International Airport tagged Tim Kelly's custom-fitted wheelchair for his flight on Saturday, July 2, and Kelly rode in the chair right to the plane's door.
Arriving in Dublin the next morning, however, Delta staff realized that Kelly's wheelchair hadn't been put on the plane.
"Being a wheelchair user, you're always the last person 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 that staff were unsure where it was and thought it may have gone to baggage reclaim. After a while, it became clear it wasn't in Dublin.
"It seems as if my chair was tagged by the gate agent, but she never scanned the tag," Kelly said. "So my name was never attached to the chair, it seems, or my destination."
In a statement sent to Insider, Delta apologized for the misplacement of Kelly's wheelchair, saying: "We consider a wheelchair an extension of a person and understand that any mishandling of this mobility device directly impacts their daily living."
Kelly told Insider that Delta staff provided him with a chair that had no push rims, meaning he was unable to move himself. Later, staff at JFK contacted him saying they'd found his chair and that they'd send it on the next flight so it would arrive in Dublin the next morning.
"So the plane arrives roughly at nine 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 it to Boston," Kelly said.
Delta's flight from Boston to Dublin was set to arrive around an hour earlier than the flight from JFK.
"It sounds like JFK potentially made a judgment call to get it in earlier for me," Kelly said. "So it got tagged to go to Boston and then Boston never flipped it over to the overnight flight to come to Dublin."
Kelly said he struggled to explore Dublin in the replacement chair the airline had given him.
"I had a hard enough time just going two blocks on Sunday night to go to a restaurant," he said. He even considered flying back hime, picking up his spare wheelchair, and flying back to Dublin, a round trip of over 6,000 miles.
After his own chair failed to arrive on Monday, Delta offered to get him an electric wheelchair for his trip, something he said was "not me."
"To be put into a wheelchair that's either electric or somebody has to push me, I feel embarrassed at that point. At that point you've taken all dignity from me, to go in that type of chair."
Both Kelly and Delta reached out to a company in Dublin that supplied his brand of chairs, and on Monday afternoon he was able to get one similar to his own. Kelly said that Delta paid for the chair's rental, which was around $700 for two days.
Kelly's chair eventually arrived on Tuesday.
On the flight back, however, handlers accidentally "snapped off one of my handbrakes on the chair," Kelly told Insider.
He said that this happens occasionally and was easy to fix, and that Delta footed the bill for this.
In May, US airlines "mishandled" 1.53% of wheelchairs and scooters taken on flights, according to data from the Department of Transportation.
Staff in Dublin — who he called "fantastic" — offered Kelly, his wife, and two children $1,000 each in Delta Choice vouchers, an email viewed 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 viewed by Insider, Delta later offered Kelly and his family 20,000 SkyMiles each as a "goodwill gesture," then told him his case was considered closed and that he wouldn't get any more offers of compensation.
A single ticket from JFK to Dublin in late August could cost around 60,000 SkyMiles per person.
"I'm gonna squeeze them hard," Kelly said.