In this day and age of improved airline access regulations, flying has become rather commonplace for many wheelchair-users. And that’s a very good thing. Sure there are still hiccups, but flying is a far cry from what it was in the pre-ACAA days — when airlines could refuse wheelchair-users passage for any capricious reason, and those lucky souls that were permitted to board were required to sit on blankets for fear they would soil the seats. Continue reading
On the heels of Frank Gardner’s nearly two-hour wait to be reunited with his wheelchair at Heathrow International Airport, the British government is considering strengthening their almost non-existent accessible air travel regulations. In the US, disabled passengers are entitled to “prompt” deplaning, which according to the Department of Transportation means “as soon as the rest of the passenger are deplaned”. Unfortunately that’s not the way things work in the UK. Continue reading
In the final days of 2018, US District Court Judge John Bates dealt another blow to disability advocates, by further delaying the implementation of rules designed to track the number assistive devices damaged by US airlines. This Obama-era regulation was scheduled to go onto effect on January 1, 2018 until it was postponed another year by President Trump, under his agenda to reduce business regulations. Continue reading
Although travelers in the US are used to the protections that the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) affords them in this country (and on flights to and from the US), that’s not how it works on foreign soil. In fact, I routinely get reports of wheelchair-users who were unceremoniously denied boarding at airports throughout Asia. Such is the case of Kaushik Majumdar, who recently tried to board an Air India flight from Bengaluru to Kolkata.
Notice, I said “tried”.
According to reports of the incident Majumdar was told at check-in that he would have to remove the dry-cell battery from his power wheelchair and transfer to a manual wheelchair at the gate. After he did this, he was also informed that he would have to disconnect all of the wires that ran to the battery case. Being leery about his ability to properly reconnect the wires, and concerned about possible damage to his wheelchair, he refused. And then Air India refused to accept him as a passenger.
Should this have happened? Well no it shouldn’t have, but it did. And although in the US, the ACAA prohibits the removal of non-spillable batteries that are appropriately marked and installed, that’s not the way it works with Air India.
So this is just a little heads up if you happen to have India on your bucket list. Tread lightly with Air India, as they don’t appear to be “power-wheelchair friendly”. And no matter where you travel, check with the airline to see what their policies are regarding the stowage of assistive devices before you buy your ticket. A little advance research could possible save you a whole lot of heartache – not to mention a ruined trip. In this case, forewarned is definitely forearmed!
I get a lot of feedback on airlines – some of it good, and some of it not so good. For the most part my advice to folks is to learn the law – in this case the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) – and then complain to the Complaints Resolution Official (CRO) if things don’t go according to the regs. And that works fine if you are flying on a US carrier, or to or from the US on a foreign carrier. That’s as far as the jurisdiction of the ACAA extends. Period. Continue reading
Wheelchair damage – or the potential for it – is something that many air travelers face every time they board a plane. And although we can’t totally stop the damage (wouldn’t that be nice?) we can enact regulations regarding how airlines report such damage, so consumers can choose the airline with the best record. Continue reading
I’m getting a lot of questions this week in regards to Mark Smith’s recent incident with American Airlines. Smith is a power-wheelchair-user who was on his way home from Abilities Expo in Southern California, when a gaggle of American Airlines employees boarded the aircraft and informed him that they needed to remove him from the airplane because of “captain’s orders”. So he was transferred to an aisle chair, and taken back to the jet bridge, and was later transported on another American Airlines flight. Continue reading