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Thread: When speaking to an airline, ugh.

  1. #1

    When speaking to an airline, ugh.

    My letter to AA:

    My son and I travel often on UA and we are fairly well versed with their company and federal policies concerning passengers with disabilities. I'd like to point out a few things about our flights yesterday and today. Perhaps AA is different.
    -We are offered early boarding and because he is completely immobile I often ask for an extra TWO minutes to carry him on board, then carry my luggage, then break down his wheelchair to fit on the plane. Both flights passengers were sent down immediately. I'd be happy to have your staff put him in an aisle chair, but from my experience this process takes MUCH longer than two minutes.
    -I understand that we are required to have an individual briefing before take off as per Federal rules. We did not receive anything like this on either flight. I feel like this should come to your attention in case someone does need that extra information.
    -Finally, the wheelchair. This is a $7000 set of "legs" for my son. It is not a stroller. It is not a walker. It is his ONLY way to get around. He has a T2 spinal cord injury with no use or sensation from his chest down. Not one member of your coworkers offered to put the frame of the chair in the aircraft. It is treated like luggage. Both aircraft had adequate space in the first class closet for the chair. When it was returned to us both times the brakes were askew. I am frustrated that when I travel AA I also bring out my tool box to make sure my son?s chair is safe.




    AA response:


    We received your email about the difficulties you and your son encountered while traveling with us from Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) on April 28 and your return from Chicago on April 29. We have reviewed the problems you reported, and appreciate this opportunity to respond.
    While we are glad you and your son were preboarded on your flights, we understand you were disappointed when other customers were sent down immediately. After reviewing our records, it appears there were other customers that required preboarding.
    Additionally, it was disheartening to learn our personnel did not offer to stow your son's wheelchair frame in the cabin. When a customer travels with a collapsible, manual wheelchair (or in this case, a wheelchair frame) and wishes to have it stored in the cabin, U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations require this service to be provided to the first customer who requests it. There are certain stipulations that must be met, however:
    The customer must agree to preboard the flight and be available at the gate for preboarding.
    Only one wheelchair will be accommodated in the cabin. To allow more than one wheelchair would severely restrict the storage space needed by other customers.









    • If a through customer has already stored a wheelchair on board, it will remain in place and all other wheelchairs will be stowed in the cargo compartment.

    Since wheelchair stowage in the cabin is on a first-come, first-served basis, there may be occasions when this service is unavailable to everyone who wishes it. When a wheelchair is checked as baggage, it is our policy to provide a wheelchair for the customer's use in the terminals.
    Finally, we regret you and your son did not receive an individual briefing while on board your flights, and hope you will accept our apology. We take these matters very seriously, and have forwarded a copy of your comments to our Vice President of Flight Service for an internal review. Thank you for giving us this opportunity to improve our service.
    Please allow us to mention that our procedures have been designed to be in full compliance with the DOT regulations regarding the accommodation of customers with disabilities. Since an individual briefing was not provided on your flights, unfortunately, a violation has occurred. We should also mention that any customer may pursue DOT enforcement action if they wish to do so.
    Still, we appreciate hearing from our customers when problems arise, as it gives us the opportunity to examine how we have performed and work to improve our service in the future. Accordingly, let me assure you that your comments have been forwarded to the appropriate management personnel in DFW and Chicago. We are confident your criticism will be used constructively.
    We want you to know that we care about the negative impact these issues had on your and your son's trip. Therefore, we've credited each of your AAdvantage? accounts with 5,000 bonus miles. This adjustment should be reflected in your accounts very soon. We hope you will accept our gesture of goodwill.
    Ms. Norman, despite what happened on this occasion, we hope you and your son will continue to select American Airlines for your travel needs. We will work hard to ensure that you receive the service you expect and deserve.







    My favorite part is the two bullet points completely empty. Not unlike the response itself.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Domosoyo's Avatar
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    Yeah, those empty bullet points say a lot. Lots of copy/paste and no proofing.

  3. #3
    I apologize in advance for my cynical and somewhat insensitive view on the subject.

    From reading your letter, I can't see exactly what you're complaining about. The only real problem I see is the "askew brakes" which doesn't sound like a very serious problem (though to be honest I don't know what you mean by the phrase, could be anything from simple disengaging the brakes to permanent damage of the frame caused by manipulating the chair by the brakes), perhaps a little more description could have been enlightening.

    Did the passengers who were sent down right after you make it difficult for you to board? In your complaint you don't list any particular problems with that, it just sounds like it wasn't what you were used to (and from the wording seems to indicate you didn't even ask for these extra two minutes this time).

    You also mention that the wheelchair wasn't stowed in the passenger compartment of the plane (honestly I didn't even know this was an option), but that in and of itself (besides the askew brakes) shouldn't cause a problem, right? I assume that you, like me, are going to be one of the last off of the plane since you have to make two trips for your luggage. I've personally never had my chair not ready and waiting for me as soon as the last AB passenger is off the plane.

    Most confusing to me is your complaint about not having an individual briefing before the flight, but that is probably confusing to me because I've traveled many times by air and never had one. Is it something you really need and benefit from (your letter seems to indicate it was just a sidenote and you didn't want them to get in trouble for skipping this protocol).


    Obviously I wasn't there, but from a quick read of the two letters you brought up a few minor violations of protocol with no clear impact on your flight experience and allusions to possible mild inconvenience. They responded with apologies and the obligatory lawyer-ass-covering jargon... not sure what else you expected. Perhaps if you'd been more descriptive in the specific damage and harm caused to you and your son you would have gotten a more satisfying response (but I doubt it).

  4. #4
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blythe716 View Post
    My letter to AA:

    My son and I travel often on UA and we are fairly well versed with their company and federal policies concerning passengers with disabilities. I'd like to point out a few things about our flights yesterday and today. Perhaps AA is different.
    -We are offered early boarding and because he is completely immobile I often ask for an extra TWO minutes to carry him on board, then carry my luggage, then break down his wheelchair to fit on the plane. Both flights passengers were sent down immediately. I'd be happy to have your staff put him in an aisle chair, but from my experience this process takes MUCH longer than two minutes.
    -I understand that we are required to have an individual briefing before take off as per Federal rules. We did not receive anything like this on either flight. I feel like this should come to your attention in case someone does need that extra information.
    -Finally, the wheelchair. This is a $7000 set of "legs" for my son. It is not a stroller. It is not a walker. It is his ONLY way to get around. He has a T2 spinal cord injury with no use or sensation from his chest down. Not one member of your coworkers offered to put the frame of the chair in the aircraft. It is treated like luggage. Both aircraft had adequate space in the first class closet for the chair. When it was returned to us both times the brakes were askew. I am frustrated that when I travel AA I also bring out my tool box to make sure my son?s chair is safe.




    AA response:


    We received your email about the difficulties you and your son encountered while traveling with us from Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) on April 28 and your return from Chicago on April 29. We have reviewed the problems you reported, and appreciate this opportunity to respond.
    While we are glad you and your son were preboarded on your flights, we understand you were disappointed when other customers were sent down immediately. After reviewing our records, it appears there were other customers that required preboarding.
    Additionally, it was disheartening to learn our personnel did not offer to stow your son's wheelchair frame in the cabin. When a customer travels with a collapsible, manual wheelchair (or in this case, a wheelchair frame) and wishes to have it stored in the cabin, U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations require this service to be provided to the first customer who requests it. There are certain stipulations that must be met, however:
    The customer must agree to preboard the flight and be available at the gate for preboarding.
    Only one wheelchair will be accommodated in the cabin. To allow more than one wheelchair would severely restrict the storage space needed by other customers.









    • If a through customer has already stored a wheelchair on board, it will remain in place and all other wheelchairs will be stowed in the cargo compartment.

    Since wheelchair stowage in the cabin is on a first-come, first-served basis, there may be occasions when this service is unavailable to everyone who wishes it. When a wheelchair is checked as baggage, it is our policy to provide a wheelchair for the customer's use in the terminals.
    Finally, we regret you and your son did not receive an individual briefing while on board your flights, and hope you will accept our apology. We take these matters very seriously, and have forwarded a copy of your comments to our Vice President of Flight Service for an internal review. Thank you for giving us this opportunity to improve our service.
    Please allow us to mention that our procedures have been designed to be in full compliance with the DOT regulations regarding the accommodation of customers with disabilities. Since an individual briefing was not provided on your flights, unfortunately, a violation has occurred. We should also mention that any customer may pursue DOT enforcement action if they wish to do so.
    Still, we appreciate hearing from our customers when problems arise, as it gives us the opportunity to examine how we have performed and work to improve our service in the future. Accordingly, let me assure you that your comments have been forwarded to the appropriate management personnel in DFW and Chicago. We are confident your criticism will be used constructively.
    We want you to know that we care about the negative impact these issues had on your and your son's trip. Therefore, we've credited each of your AAdvantage? accounts with 5,000 bonus miles. This adjustment should be reflected in your accounts very soon. We hope you will accept our gesture of goodwill.
    Ms. Norman, despite what happened on this occasion, we hope you and your son will continue to select American Airlines for your travel needs. We will work hard to ensure that you receive the service you expect and deserve.







    My favorite part is the two bullet points completely empty. Not unlike the response itself.
    this letter comes across as person who believes the world owes him something because their son is disabled. it doesn't.

  5. #5
    Senior Member
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    I have one word to describe airline travel with a child in a chair - "random".

    We get told one thing at the check-in desk, another at the Gate, another at the plane entrance (where normally they don't have the aisle chair ready, despite the earlier two discussions!), another by the air crew, and another just before we land. So I've given up trying to second-guess any outcome. But I have discovered that the pilot(s) is/are not allowed to leave the plane until all passengers have disembarked - so if my son's chair isn't at the plane exit when all the other passengers have left, I enjoy the speed at which something is done when the pilot wants to get off!

    It would be good if all airlines had some consistent practices (that those who use wheelchairs agreed with). But unfortunately I don't see that happening anytime soon....
    Gordon, father of son who became t6 paraplegic at the age of 4 in 2007 as a result of surgery to remove a spinal tumour.

  6. #6
    Senior Member marvin_cr's Avatar
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    Being in a wheelchair for 35+ years, I have flown many, many times. I really haven’t had any problems, other than problems that any other traveler would have, like delays, missed connecting flights, and lost luggage. I have never called the airline ahead of time. I just show up, and try to get to the gate early. I tell them at the gate I will need an aisle chair and a claim at gate ticket for my wheelchair. I get a claim at gate ticket even on connecting flights. You never know when a connecting flight will be missed, and I don’t want my wheelchair in a different city. My wheelchair has always been waiting in the jetway for me when I get off the plane. I didn’t even know keeping wheelchair in the cabin was an option. Most of the newer planes don’t even have that kind of storage option. It is all overhead storage.
    I have never felt rushed getting on or off the plane. I have always taken whatever time I needed to transfer to the aisle chair and to transfer to my seat. I have never asked for extra time. I have boarded, both ways, where no one boards until I am seated and, where people are boarding at the same time I am. I have learned how to get the aisle chair and my chair positioned so I am in the way, and everyone has to wait in the jetway until I am seated. This just happened to me on Monday.
    Also, the one minor problem I have seen is the ground crew can’t find an aisle chair when I am getting off the plane, but that is usually resolved quickly by the fight crew. The flight crew cannot leave until I am off the plane and the flight crew harasses the ground crew until the aisle chair is found.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by marvin_cr View Post
    I didn?t even know keeping wheelchair in the cabin was an option. Most of the newer planes don?t even have that kind of storage option. It is all overhead storage.
    Just for your future reference: the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) says this:

    (2) Aircraft with 100 or more passenger seats shall have a priority space in the cabin designated for stowage of at least one folding wheelchair;
    and this:

    (2) In an aircraft in which a closet or other approved stowage area is provided in the cabin for passengers? carry-on items, of a size that will accommodate a folding, collapsible,or break-down wheelchair, the carrier shall designate priority stowage space, as described below, for at least one folding, collapsible, or break-down wheelchair in that area. A individual with a disability who takes advantage of a carrier offer of the opportunity to pre-board the aircraft may stow his or her wheelchair in this area, with priority over the carry-on items brought onto the aircraft by other passengers enplaning at the same airport. A individual with a disability who does not take advantage of a carrier offer of the opportunity to preboard may use the area to stow his or her wheelchair on a first-come, first-served basis along with all other passengers seeking to stow carry-on items in the area.

    (3) If an approved stowage area in the cabin is not available for a folding,collapsible, or break-down wheelchair, the wheelchair shall be stowed in the cargo compartment.
    That space is usually the first class closet. Some airlines have designated certain seats/rows, usually at the very rear of the aircraft, for this purpose. In that case, if a wheelchair user insists on cabin stowage, one or more passengers may be denied boarding in order to accommodate the wheelchair. This tends to make for cranky passengers and crew, but them's the breaks.

    While a rigid chair frequently will fit in the cabin in the first class closet, the airline can make the argument that they don't have to stow it in the cabin because it is not a "folding, collapsible or break-down wheelchair".

    There's no clarity in the ACAA as to what happens if two passengers would like their wheelchairs stowed in the cabin.

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