Airline travel is especially difficult for pwds (people with disabilities.) Airline staff is routinely rude and hostile to disability access (one exception in my experience was Frontier Airlines, where service and accommodation went well beyond anything required by law or even human decency– on one flight the pilot made sure my chair was secure in cargo, and upon arrival, brought the chair up to the cabin, himself.) But on one flight, United broke both my walker and my wheelchair. I noticed problems with the chair, right away, and reported them, but didn’t notice problems with the walker until I got home, since I was using the wheelchair. United staff was impossible to reach, and we spent much of the next week attempting to get some resolution to a drastic loss in ambulatory, medical equipment. Finally, they did agree to replace both items, but not without the outrageous “you’ll have to bring them in for inspection.”
“Are you listening to yourself?” I asked. “Your people broke my wheelchair and walker. How do you suggest I bring them in?”
On another flight “we lost your wheelchair, please stand up and come with me.” The wheelchair did not make the connecting flight, and no one contacted LAX to alert them. Locating the wheelchair took several hours, and special delivery to my home, did not include sending enough staff to actually get the wheelchair out of the van and to my front door. ” I have your wheelchair outside, will you please come out and get it.”
On yet another flight, with Jet Blue, I was hideously ridiculed by flight attendants, when I asked for assistance to the onflight restroom and somewhere to sit while waiting; each flight has an aisle width wheelchair for this purpose, but they refused to get it, insisting that I didn’t look disabled and threatening me if I “didn’t behave myself.” Their behavior was so bad, that two other travelers, we didn’t know, came up to us and offered to be witnesses. We filed a complaint, but never heard back, and with everything happening in our lives, didn’t follow up. –so many indignities, so little time!!!
Airports, because there are so many wheels needed for transporting luggage, are relatively easy to get around by wheelchair, though we’ve experienced revolving doors, and other passageways that are not accessible, and with no signage, at the starting point, had to return to the gate and go around much of the airport to get to baggage. No one offered to help us, to find a more direct route or even to apologize for the inconvenience.
I find airline security to be extremely problematic, as they insist, if you are traveling in your own wheelchair (imagine that!) on separating you from your luggage; while your luggage goes through the x-ray machines, you, in a wheelchair must go to a different location to be frisked, and the wheelchair checked. There has to be a way to search the person and the possessions together, but we haven’t found an airport that provides for this. I always protest, and on one occasion, they did search my items and then took me and my items to the station where they searched me and my wheelchair. Usually they insist that I leave my things with Andy, assuming that I have no privacy issues with the person with whom I am traveling (suppose this were a co-worker, boss, etc. on a business trip, an abusive spouse, or any of a number of scenarios in which I might not want someone else to be in control of my possessions or to have my possessions out of my sight.)
The hostile indifference of airline staff is considerable. So it is with enthusiasm, as I have yet to travel by air without at least one indignity due to disability discrimination, that I read, and pass on this link to a judicial ruling, long overdue, obliging airlines to adhere to the ADA or face litigation.
Federal judge: Airports, airlines subject to ADA rules
Paul Egan / The Detroit News