Maria Saliagas has multiple sclerosis and can't sit up on her own. Typically, Delta accommodates her with a wheelchair featuring straps that help support her, but during a trip earlier this month the airline didn't have one available—so, Saliagas tells WSB-TV, Delta employees used someone else's blanket to tie her to a regular wheelchair. "They took a dirty blanket and tied her forcefully with it and she has bruise marks on part of her arm because it was so tight and she started crying," says her son. A photo was taken at that moment, which you can see here. On Facebook Tuesday, Saliagas' son said his mother "was told to 'shut the f--- up' or she will be 'left there'" after she started crying. The incident unfolded at the Amsterdam airport after Saliagas and her husband flew to Europe out of the Atlanta airport April 1.
"We regret the perception our service has left on these customers," Delta told WSB-TV in a statement. "We have reached out to them, not only to resolve their concerns, but also ensure that their return flight exceeds expectations." But Delta tells the New York Post an airport-contracted wheelchair vendor met the Saliagas at the gate and Maria Saliagas chose a wheelchair out of several options presented to her. After she complained of "slipping," the airline says, she agreed to the blanket plan proposed by a wheelchair assistant and a new blanket was used to secure her. The airline says its "findings do not align with details shared by the customer’s family," but that it is "disappointed that our customers didn’t have a satisfying travel experience." The Saliagas return to the US April 30 and say Delta has offered them 20,000 free SkyMiles, but they want to see a change in the airline's policy for handling customers with disabilities. (Read more Delta Air Lines stories.)