US Airways rewrites policy after booted Cerebral Palsy customer

By Juan Carlos Fanjul - bio | email

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - Johnnie Tuitel, 47 of Grand Rapids, Michigan, had no problem flying into Palm Beach International.

"It's really a nice place to fly into. It's not that big. You think, you are going to have some non-issues; it's going to be easy," he said.

But taking a US Airways flight out on September 13 was a downright nightmare. The wheelchair-bound man, who suffers from Cerebral Palsy, checked in ahead of time with a ramp agent.

He was on board the West Palm-Kansas City flight when his wings were clipped. "They wheeled me out of the plane, and he proceeds to tell me that they have made the determination that I am too disabled to fly by myself. They felt that in an emergency I couldn't help others or myself," he said.

But for 20 years, the man, who calls himself "America's Pioneer Handicapitalist", a sought-after motivational speaker in the disabled community, has crisscrossed the globe by himself on hundreds of flights without a single problem.

That's why he decided to raise a stink -- going on multiple networks shows and getting the airline to admit they did wrong by him. "Everybody assumes litigation, but I am not litigating. I'm educating. We are going to do some corporate training and try to change the policy," he said.

He says US Airways is paying him to consult as they rework their policy on disabled flyers.

In town Tuesday while visiting Palm Beach State College, he just wants abled people to know, "I can do it. I am physically able to do it," he said.

Tuitel says he's kind of glad this happened to him, so he can now inspire other disabled people that no one should tell them what they can or cannot do.

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