Ian Smith had an unfortunate end to his Fiji cruise last month, when Jetstar refused to let him travel back to his home in New South Wales from Melbourne. And although Smith is a wheelchair-user, that wasn’t the reason for the denied boarding.
Early this month Hong Kong Airlines denied passage to a wheelchair-user who was traveling alone. Twenty-two year old Shen Chengqing was scheduled to travel from Hong Kong to Tianjin, but airport staff refused to check her in when they discovered she was traveling solo. According to Chengqing, she notified the reservation agent that she used a wheelchair when she bought her ticket.
So what happened? Continue reading
The day started out as a typical travel day for Matthew Meehan. That is until he boarded his Delta flight from Atlanta to Miami on November 1, 2018. As he settled into his seat he noticed an unpleasant odor, but it wasn’t until he reached underneath it to retrieve his errant charger that he discovered the source. Continue reading
Airlines for America (AIA) — an airline industry group — recently announced that it had submitted a 222-page document to the Department of Transportation (DOT), in response to a call for input on possible revisions to the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). The group’s response included the suggestion that the DOT narrow the definition of “service animal” to “trained dogs that perform a task or work for an individual with a disability.” The document also included the recommendation that airlines should not be required to allow emotional support animals (ESOs) on board. 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
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