United Airlines Chimes in on Wheelchair Policy

As the busy holiday travel season is upon us, I thought I’d post a follow-up to my “Don?t Believe Everything Airline Employees Say” blog. As you recall, a friend of mine was horrified when an OKC gate agent informed her that a new policy would soon require wheelchair-users to retrieve and recheck their wheelchairs at all connecting cities.

Of course it’s great to have your own wheelchair in a connecting city if you have a five hour layover; however if you only have an hour between flights you might not have ample time to retrieve and recheck it. So you can see why this supposed policy change is a such a concern.

In any case, a complaint was filed with the DOT, to which United Airlines replied. And I’m going to be perfectly frank here — their reply didn?t exactly instill me with confidence about their capability for correctly routing assistive devices.

According to United Airlines, the gate agent who checked-in my friend is actually a Service Director, Trainer and CRO. Of course they pointed out that the passenger’s wheelchair was indeed routed to her final destination, per her request. As for the gate agent’s comment about a future change in policy, well apparently that was “in reference to United’s new gate delivery tags, which do not have an area to indicate when a wheelchair is to be transported through to the final destination and not brought to the aircraft door at the connecting points.”

OK, can you see my concern here?

If the new tags don’t have a space for that information, aren’t they just rolling the dice here? Why eliminate the space for this very important information on the tag? Won’t it just confuse everyone?

Granted in this case, we had a gate agent who knew how to modify the tag, and baggage handlers who were able to understand the modification. Yes, it all worked out, but I also have to point out that my friend is a experienced flyer and a very good self advocate.

But what happens when a newbie traveler and a rookie gate agent encounter the same issue?

My contact at United assures me that “we will be monitoring all of the policies to make sure that there are no misunderstandings.”

Sure, but if you don’t know what your options are, how can you even complain when there is a “misunderstanding”?

At this point, the only thing I can do is to advise folks to watch out for this potential problem (misunderstanding) when flying with United. And if you run into any problems (misunderstandings), ask to speak to a CRO to make sure your wheelchair is routed according to your wishes. Hopefully United will look into changing their new tags so this won’t be an issue; but until then, flyer beware!

 

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