A TikTok star called out Delta for breaking her wheelchair on a flight, a systemic issue airlines keep ignoring

Two screenshots from Bri Scalesse's TikTok videos next to a photo of her in her wheelchair
A composite image showing Bri Scalesse in a TikTok video (left) next to a full-body shot (right) of her with the wheelchair which was later broken in transit.

  • A model and disability advocate called out Delta for breaking her wheelchair in transit.
  • Bri Scalesse said the chair was irreparably damaged en route from St Paul to Newark on July 4.
  • Airlines damage thousands of wheelchairs a year, a problem companies have been slow to address.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A TikTok star and disability advocate called out Delta Air Lines in a viral post for breaking her wheelchair in transit and ruining her trip.

Bri Scalesse told Insider that the “dehumanizing” experiences highlights a recurring problem where airlines don’t take care with wheelchairs and end up causing problems for disabled passengers.

Scalesse, a model and disability advocate, handed her chair over to airport staff when she took flight 3737 from St Paul, Minnesota, to Newark, New Jersey, on July 4.

She said she had been in the Midwest for a wedding with her boyfriend. But after the flight home, she realized that her chair had been irreparably damaged.

In a TikTok video filmed shortly after the flight, Scalesse told her 478,000 followers that “Today my freedom and independence was taken away, and I don’t know how I’m going to live my life”.


@delta today I’m losing my independence only 6 weeks after my best friend lost hers. How. How. How.

♬ original sound – briscalesse

She told Insider that her boyfriend first noticed the damage to the chair, when one of its caster wheels (a small front wheel that helps the chair maneuver) no longer touched the ground.

The frame had buckled, leaving the break pushing on the wheel. The balance was off as well, leaving Scalesse tilting to one side as she sat in the chair. The damage had left the chair essentially unusable.

“I just immediately went into shock,” Scalesse told Insider.

She said that Delta staff referred her to baggage services, which she described as “dehumanizing” given how vital the chair is to her.

“This happens because our wheelchairs are really treated like luggage, not as an extension of our bodies,” she said.

“And I think that’s where kind of the beginning of the problem starts is that they’re not seen as a part of us, our wheelchairs, and our medical devices aren’t seen as a part of us.”

In a statement to Insider, Delta said that its staff “consider a wheelchair as an extension of a person,” and said that it was talking to Scalesse about what happened.

Scalesse said that problems like this are common for disabled people. In her TikTok she said: “I want to, my community want to, experience the world, we want to travel, and we don’t want to be afraid that at the end of a flight our freedom won’t be there”.

One of Scalesse’s friends had the same thing happen to her. Gigi deFiebre’s chair was broken – also by Delta – on a May trip from New York to Phoenix, which Scalesse also highlighted in a viral TikTok post that was viewed 17 million times.


@delta today I’m losing my independence only 6 weeks after my best friend lost hers. How. How. How.

♬ original sound – briscalesse

Scalesse told Insider that deFiebre is still waiting on the repairs to her chair seven weeks later because of errors by the repair company.

Scalesse told Insider: “I do believe that it’s not an individual problem, or an individual person problem, or even an individual airline problem. I think it’s a deeper systemic issue. 26 wheelchairs are damaged a day by airlines in America.”

A photo of Bri Scalesse and Gigi DeFiebre smiling at the camera
Bri Scalesse and Gigi DeFiebre are working to highlight the realities of travelling in a wheelchair

“It just blows my mind that this can keep happening with no changes being made… whether that’s a specific area for medical devices under the plane, or, what I think most people would love is to have our chairs on the planes with us, even if that’s not us in them, to have them strapped somewhere on the plane.”

US Department of Transportation figures show that thousands of wheelchairs and scooters per year are damaged on flights, with 10,548 damaged in 2019, as Insider’s Talia Lakritz reported.

In a statement to Insider regarding the breaking of Bri Scalesse’s wheelchair, Delta said: “We consider a wheelchair as an extension of a person and understand that any mishandling of this mobility device directly impacts their daily living. We are affirmatively working with the customer to understand what occurred.

“We are proactively working with our Advisory Board on Disability and our cross divisional operations teams to continuously improve the travel experience for our customers with disabilities.”

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SpaceX’s Rideshare is making it far easier to launch satellites into orbit. In-Space Missions explains how it’s using the program to help customers realise their ambitions.

A rendering of In-Space Missions' Faraday spacecraft that was launched in the SpaceX rocket
In-Space Mission’s tech will allow future satellites to be customizable from the ground.

  • SpaceX’s Rideshare has helped cut the timescale for getting into orbit from years to a few months.
  • UK firm In-Space Missions is using the program to develop its own customizable satellite tech.
  • It was able to send one of the 88 small satellites, or smallsats, that recently launched into orbit.

When you spend millions to build a satellite – each second you wait for its launch carries the weight of years of hard work.

Nobody knows that better than Doug Liddle, co-founder and CEO of In-Space Missions, and a nearly 30-year veteran of the space industry. He also led the design of the first Galileo satellite demonstrator, Europe’s premier global navigation satellite system.

Founded almost six years ago, Hampshire-based In-Space Missions aim to achieve a significant reduction in traditional timescales to get technology in orbit. The company designs, builds and operates bespoke missions for clients.

Using SpaceX’s Rideshare, which uses the orbital class reusable rocket Falcon 9, In-Space Missions recently sent one of the 88 small satellites, or smallsats, that went into orbit.

For large satellites, Liddle would previously have spent $11.8 million to launch one. Now the cost is around $1 million.

SpaceX has revolutionized the cost, Liddle said: “It isn’t just the slots on their rockets that are a low price. They’re also going several times a year. You can fill up a 200 kilogram slot on the rocket for $1 million, which is crazy. Compared to what it used to be.”

After having worked for the European Space Agency, the UK’s Ministry of Defence and several private firms, Liddle decided to cater to smaller businesses or early-stage startups valued in the $20 million range.

“There are people with great business ideas, who don’t know how to get their stuff into space,” he said.

Satellites provide deep insight for climate-crisis research but also have many common applications, including gathering data for credit card authorizations or even tracking wildlife.

With the advent of SpaceX’s reusable rockets, Liddle said the sky’s the limit for making space exploration more accessible.

“We’re in a world now where people can come out of university, set up a space company, and get something in space in a couple of years,” he said. “That was just unheard of even 10 years ago.”

In fact, his company is already spearheading its own technological advancements to further equalize the space race, while also making it sustainable.

Governments are increasingly implementing rules to reduce the environmental impact of spaceflight. More than 27,000 pieces of orbital debris, or “space junk” are tracked by the US Department of Defense, according to NASA.

“You can’t just keep putting things into space,” Liddle said. “There is only physically so much space you can go into before you start banging into each other.”

Historically, each launched satellite has served a sole purpose. Liddle’s team, however, is not only hosting multiple customers on their satellite but has also designed technology that allows future satellites to be customizable from the ground. It’s expected to be publicly available in 12 to 18 months.

Liddle said: “We’ve developed a piece of technology that’s flying on this satellite, which we’re then going to expand and fly on future ones, that will allow people to, from the ground, upload their payload, their service, their application. So it would be like every app on your phone.”

The technology his team is developing will reduce the timescale from a few years to three to four months.

He used the analogy of using one piece of software to access Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram.

“The technology that’s available now has got us to the place where you can fly loads of people in one spacecraft,” he said. “You can reconfigure it in software from the ground and upgrade it in the same way your phone will upgrade every so many months. You can do exactly the same with spacecraft now.”

Read the original article on Business Insider