Beyoncé flies out devoted disabled fan denied flight over wheelchair size
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Featured Image Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella / Instagram / liberatedbygaga
TikTok rallied around a disabled Beyoncé fan after he was forced to cancel plans to see the singer.
Jon Hetherington had been due to fly out to Seattle to see Beyoncé perform on her Renaissance tour. But when Jon went to board his flight with Alaska Airlines, he was gutted to find out that the plane was not able to accommodate his wheelchair.
Jon has cerebral palsy and uses an electric wheelchair. The 34-year-old was known to staff at the airport as he had previously flown out to Seattle to see Janelle Monáe.
But the Boeing plane which the airline was operating could not fit his chair in the hold.
This meant that Jon, who lives in Oregon, would be unable to fly out to see Beyoncé. Not giving up, he put out a video to his 22,000 followers on TikTok, saying he usually gets a couple of hundred views on his videos.
He said: "Well, guess I'm not going to see Seattle, and I'm not seeing Beyoncé. So after 25 years of waiting, I'm not seeing Beyoncé tonight, so ableism strikes again."
In the end, the video ended up being viewed some 90,000 times, with people tagging Beyoncé and production company Parkwood Entertainment. He was soon on his way to see her perform in Dallas, Texas.
After the concert, he wrote on Instagram: "To the queen herself @beyonce, I will treasure those words you said and the hugs you gave.
"I meant every word I said. No, for anyone and everyone reading this, I will not ever share with you what was said to me, don't even try it. That moment is between the two of us."
A spokesperson for Alaska Airlines said: "We feel terrible about our guest's travel experience with us. We're always aiming to do better as we encounter situations such as this one.
"Our Boeing [aircraft] have dimension limitations when it comes to loading battery-powered mobility aids, like a wheelchair, into the cargo hold."
Boeing aircraft can accommodate items up to 34 inches tall, while Airbus aircraft can fit in objects up 46 inches tall. Alaska Airlines refunded the tickets.
But despite being able to see Beyoncé, Jon highlighted that the incident was indicative of the much wider challenges that he and others like him face every day.
After he went to see Monáe in Seattle, he was unable to find a taxi which could accommodate his wheelchair. This left him stranded on the streets of Seattle from midnight to 9am, with the battery in the chair running out at 8am.
Speaking to NPR after the Beyoncé concert, Jon said: "This is not about a concert. This is not about one artist. This is not about one airline. This is about systemic issues of ableism that are happening every day.
"Disabled people are dealing with this in society, in general, and our society has been built to exclude disabled people. That's what's important."