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
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!
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
Once again France has stepped in to remedy access problems caused by British budget air carrier easyJet. In response to a criminal complaint filed by Joseph Etcheveste, last month a French court fined the air carrier €60,000 for their failure to allow the plaintiff to board his 2010 flight from Biarritz. Mr. Etcheveste is a wheelchair-user who was traveling unaccompanied, and according to easyJet, that was a “security problem”. Continue reading
As the result of a consent decree executed on Jan 7, 2016, United Airlines (UAL) is required to invest $650,000 to improve their services for disabled passengers. The decree resulted from an investigation of passenger complaints of a failure to enplane, deplane and transfer wheelchair-users in a timely manner at Houston International Airport , Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Denver International Airport, Newark International Airport, and Dulles International Airport. Continue reading
Elizabeth Sedway was having a nice family vacation in Hawaii — that is until she attempted to board her Alaska Airlines flight home to California.
You see, Sedway has multiple myeloma, and like many other people who have compromised immune systems, she wears a surgical mask in crowded public places, like airports. She also opted to preboard the flight, and according to her recollection of the incident, she told the gate agent that she felt “weak”. Both of these actions are perfectly normal under the circumstances, but they also set off a chain of events that eventually got the Sedway family unceremoniously booted from their flight. Continue reading