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Utah rodeo star uncomfortable during wheelchair incident involving United Airlines gate agent

Posted at 5:57 PM, Feb 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-27 08:43:08-05

WICHITA, Kansas - Amberley Snyder, 28, is the only professional barrel rider who's paralyzed from the waist down.

Recently, she was in Dwight D. Eisenhower airport in Wichita, Kansas, and was about to board a flight that was heading to Denver, Colorado.

Amberley, sitting in her wheelchair, was in line and speaking to the United Airlines gate agent.

She says the agent told her she could not take her wheelchair onto the jet bridge without being led by someone.

"He said, 'Well, we need to take you down backwards.' I said, 'I don’t want that, I’m not comfortable with that. I can take myself to the door of the plane,'" Amberley said.

Amberley told Fox 13 the agent insisted and told her it was a "liability" for her to go down the jet bridge by herself.

"It’s not a good feeling when you get turned around; I just don’t like it, I’m not comfortable with it. Then he said, 'well you can’t get on the plane.'"

As a public speaker, advocate for people with disabilities and a professional barrel racer, Amberley travels a lot.

She said she has traveled 150 to 200 times, just last year.

"I do this all the time, I fly all the time. I fly probably three times a week," Amberley said.

Eventually, the situation was defused and Amberley agreed to transfer over to an airport-approved wheelchair and was led through the jet bridge and onto the plane.

"I love help, I accept help, I really try to advocate for that," Amberley said. "I understand safety, I understand that concept, it’s kind of insulting that you can’t handle yourself down to the door of the plane."

Amberley wrote a complaint to United Airlines and the company sent this statement in response:

"United proudly welcomes all customers and flies thousands of people with disabilities every day. We are concerned to learn about our customer's experience and have reached out to her. We are also working with our team in Wichita to better understand what happened."

Amberley said, "I’m hoping a platform opens up that allows me to bring this concept to light. I think this is one of the starts really, making it more aware to people."