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Frontier damages pro tennis player's wheelchair jeopardizing games – USA TODAY

Andrew Bogdanov is a professional tennis player who uses a specialized wheelchair to compete. His mobility on and off the court is tied to his chair. Airlines disregarded that.
Twice while Bogdanov was traveling to competitions recently, airlines damaged his sports chair He’s now worried about how it could affect his livelihood while he waits for a replacement.
Bogdanov, who was paralyzed from the chest down in a snowboarding accident in 2014, was traveling from Phoenix to Manchester, England, via London on American Airlines and British Airways in February. When he arrived in Manchester he saw that one of the caster wheels and the fork it is affixed to had fallen off. He was able to order a replacement part, for which he paid out of pocket, which arrived in time for the competition in Bolton, England. 
Tell us your storyMobility device lost or damaged by an airline? USA TODAY wants to hear about it
However, on March 7, Bogdanov was traveling from Phoenix to Atlanta on Frontier Airlines, and when he arrived his wheelchair was damaged further.
“A different caster fork and wheel, this time not gone but snapped,” he said. “My chair is even more damaged than just the part that’s been snapped off because it’s ruined the integrity of the frame.” 
Unsure if he’d be able to compete with the damaged chair, Bogdanov sought out local welders to try to get his own repairs done in time. The first welder damaged his chair even more, forcing Bogdanov to use a loaner for the competition.
“I wind up playing the match, winning the match somehow in this awful chair,” he said. Meanwhile, his girlfriend was searching for other welders and eventually connected Bogdanov with someone who had wheelchair repair experience.
“This guy gets back to her, he’s like an angel, he actually works on sports chairs,” Bogdanov said. “I was able to play my next match the next morning.” 
Frontier Airlines said they worked with Bogdanov and Global Repair Group to get his chair replaced. Global Repair Group has not responded to USA TODAY’s request for comment.
“Our airport agents are responsible for contacting GRG immediately by phone when a passenger’s device has been reported delayed or damaged, which was done by the ATL team,” the airline said in a statement. “When the technician was completing the repairs, the technician saw the axle was bent and, based on the damage to the chair, a full replacement was sourced and provided.”
Bogdanov said he received his replacement wheelchair on May 22.
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However, he said he still hasn’t received any compensation from British Airways for his earlier incident, and he wishes airlines would handle mobility devices with greater care.
“I think there needs to be either a separate person that just deals with wheelchairs and can help,” he said. “If you’re missing a wheelchair, which is like someone’s legs, at that point it’s an emergency and needs to be figured out and handled immediately.” 
For Bogdanov especially, who relies on his wheelchair to make a living, these incidents could potentially have been much more costly.
“If I’m unable to perform well and move around effectively, I’m unable to win money, meaning I can’t pay my bills,” he said.
According to the Department of Transportation, airlines “mishandle” on average about 1.5% of the mobility equipment they transport. In 2022, that translated to 11,389 incidents reported by U.S. airlines, up from 7,239 in 2021.
This year, USA TODAY wants to highlight what those figures mean for travelers with disabilities. We’re looking to track these incidents throughout 2023 with the goal of bringing light to an all-too-common problem. 
If your own mobility equipment was damaged or lost by an airline this year, please share your story with us using the form below:
Zach Wichter is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in New York. You can reach him at zwichter@usatoday.com

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