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CTX Disabled Veterans calling on airlines for change

Posted at 6:47 PM, Jul 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-26 19:47:37-04

CENTRAL TEXAS — Three Central Texas Veterans are speaking out after having their wheelchairs damaged by an airline.

Dave Villarreal is one of those veterans. Following his time in the Marine Corps, he survived five strokes.

Villarreal is now using a wheelchair to help him get around. The military veteran travels frequently and has had his wheelchair damaged several times by airlines during transport.

Villarreal along with Ruiz Cazanova and Allen Murphy, who have experienced the same thing, are now calling on airlines for change.

"Airlines, enough is enough,” Villarreal said.

The three veterans say the list of damage to their wheelchairs includes, broken headrests, missing seat cushions and damaged batteries.

"That's every flight, every flight," Villarreal said.

The most recent damage was caused during a flight to Kentucky for the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

Villarreal said the damage to his chair was so bad this time, he filed a report with the airline.

"I decided then, if I don't do this, who will? If I don't say something right now, who will?" Villarreal said.

American Airlines responded to his complaint and sent this statement to Central Texas News Now.

We apologize for what occurred, and our team is working quickly to ensure the wheelchair is fixed. We take extra care of mobility devices transported on American Airlines, and it is extremely rare to receive a report of a broken and/or damaged wheelchair. Our team will continue working with Mr. Villarreal to help as needed and ensure the wheelchair is repaired at our expense.
American Airlines Spokeswoman

The airline also said that their staff members prepared extensively for the travel to the National Veterans Wheelchair Games. Sending Central Texas News Now the following statement:

Our operations teams worked hard to ensure we could get the large amount of chairs to and from Louisville that week and hated that he had a negative experience. As you know, we are big supports of veterans at American and are working hard to correct the issue with Mr. Villarreal.
American Airlines Spokeswoman

Villarreal added that while his chair will be fixed, he, along with his fellow veterans, want to use this experience to tell every airline that it's time for change.

"it's not fair, it's not fair to us and we are sick and tired of it,” Villarreal said. "These wheelchairs may not define us, but they are our lifeline."