PORT ROYAL, Pa. (WHTM) – A Juniata County family preparing for the trip of a lifetime hit turbulence on day one when they got to Las Vegas without a vital piece of medical equipment.
Now, they’re reaching out to the airline, hoping it won’t happen to anyone else.
Mikey Kibe is a gamblin’ man. He has been since his mom took him to his first casino at age 18.
“It doesn’t matter the amount,” Christina Goss said. “He enjoys doing it.”
The 25-year-old is beating the odds, living with cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus, and a seizure disorder. He uses a standard manual wheelchair to get around.
Las Vegas was a dream for Mikey. His family saved up for years.
“Our dream trip was actually going to happen,” Christina said.
It didn’t go quite as planned; no one in the family had flown before. Southwest Airlines in Baltimore told them they’d have to treat Mikey’s chair as checked luggage due to a full flight.
“They know what they’re doing,” Patrick Goss, Mikey’s step-dad for 20 years, said. “We don’t, so we just went ahead with it.”
That’s despite a “specially-designed wheelchair storage compartment to allow in-cabin stowage of at least one standard-size adult collapsible wheelchair,” according to Southwest’s website.
Mikey and his parents were apparently seated next to that storage area.
“Right beside us was a storage locker clearly marked,” Patrick said, but it was filled with other luggage.
The wheelchair, flight attendants said, would have to travel in the cargo area.
Mikey can’t walk. His route to the bathroom, his parents said, was on his hands and knees.
“I think that was kind of the hardest part for me to deal with, was just treating someone with that little respect,” Christina said.
The plane landed in Vegas four hours later. They waited on the plane for Mikey’s chair.
“Finally they come in and tell us all, ‘Your wheelchair is not on the plane,'” Patrick said. “”We don’t know where it’s at.'”
Fort Lauderdale, Florida is where the chair was.
“That’s what I kept saying. ‘How do you lose a wheelchair?'” Patrick asked. “How do you lose a wheelchair?”
Southwest provided a loaner; a bigger one than they needed at first, Patrick said, requiring them to upgrade their rental car at their expense — and said his would be back in a few hours.
“They just kind of treated it like it was like a piece of equipment for convenience,” Christina said. “It’s not for us. It’s necessity.”
Mikey didn’t get his chair back until day three of his dream trip. His parents refused to check it on the way back.
But even that trip wasn’t exactly smooth. They had to fight to get the wheelchair on the plane, the family said, and then couldn’t all board at once.
Southwest said they’re looking into the ordeal.
“Our Customer Relations Team is in the process of conducting additional research,” a representative said by email, adding they’ll get back to ABC27 as soon as possible.