United Airlines: Another Nightmarish Passenger Story Emerges

April 15, 2017, 7:49 PM UTC

Submitted for your consideration: An impaired man who uses a small Segway for mobility. A United crew who won’t accept TSA’s judgment that the device should be allowed on the plane. A honeymoon hampered—and a looming threat of arrest.

That’s the story told by Trey Harris, who describes himself as a former worker at both Google and Amazon. Harris suffers from spondylitis, a spinal condition which makes it difficult to walk. He uses a Segway miniPro to make life easier, and wanted to take the device with him on a March honeymoon cruise with his new husband.

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He was well aware that the Segway could be a red flag for airlines, especially given recent safety concerns around so-called hoverboards. So he talked to both the TSA and United’s own Special Needs desk before the trip. Both said that the Segway was safe, and United placed a notification on his itinerary about the device.

Things seemed to be going according to plan on the day of the flight, as Harris and his Segway made it through airport security without issues. But when he reached the gate, Harris says United staff told him he couldn’t board with the device. According to Harris’s telling, they ignored both TSA’s recommendation that the device was safe, and renewed assurances from United’s own Special Needs representative.

Ultimately, Harris claims he was forced to abandon the Segway, with United telling him he couldn’t even gate-check it as cargo.

Without his Segway, Harris was stuck with a much less convenient rented scooter, which kept him from fully enjoying his honeymoon cruise, and was occasionally dangerous. He insists he still had a great time, though, and isn’t looking for compensation from United—“not even for the scooter rental.”

That’s pretty magnanimous of him—especially considering that things somehow got even worse. In the middle of the cruise, Harris says he got a series of voicemails saying that he had abandoned a hazardous item at an airport—that is, the Segway. He was told he could face both criminal charges and fees for the disposal of the device.

Ultimately, Harris wasn’t arrested when he made it home, and he even got his Segway back. But, he says he hasn’t heard anything from United, even after sending a followup letter about the incident.

We’ve reached out to United for comment, and will update this story with any response to Harris’s story.