PORT JEFFERSON STATION, N.Y. - It's been a difficult few days for Victoria O'Brien. The 24-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, is now navigating in a makeshift manual wheelchair.
"I lost my independence when I lost my chair that day," O'Brien said.
The grad student flew home to New York last week after finishing her first year at the University of Arizona. She said that when she arrived at Kennedy Airport, her $6,000 customized wheelchair, which is less than a year old, was taken from the jet bridge by another passenger.
"It had a tag with my name on it," she said.
After scouring the baggage claim and parking lot to no avail, Victoria filed a report with the airline but was told it'd take 30 days to complete an investigation.
"It's not luggage — it's not like I can replace it at CVS or Walgreens," she said. "It takes months to have a new wheelchair."
American Airlines put the family in touch with a wheelchair loaner center but the problem is the wheelchair they offered her to use while the situation is sorted out is generic. Victoria said she needs something customized for her size, disability, and needs.
A spokesperson for American Airlines told FOX 5 NY the airline is actively working to learn more about the incident and has initiated the process to provide a permanent replacement.
But Victoria's mom, Jannet Bozza, said this isn't the first time her daughter had issues with her wheelchair while traveling with American.
"I just want them to order a new chair and expedite a new chair," Bozza said. "She's starting a job next week. She needs to show herself and her employer she's capable of doing the job."
Victoria said she has a hard enough time getting around with her disability, and that not having the right medical equipment only makes it that much harder.