Size Does Matter

airplane_landing_199029In 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

Air India Boots Power Wheelchair-User

airplane_landing_199029Although 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!

All Airline Access is NOT Equal

cockpit_plane_airplane_213770I 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

Can Airlines Deny Me Passage Just Because I’m Disabled?

airplane_landing_199029I’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

Cruisers Beware – Access Varies From Line to Line

adventure-of-the-seas-1By now, you’ve probably heard the story of wheelchair-user Ann Fisher, who was denied passage from Liverpool on the Fred Olsen liner Boudicca. The problem is, Liverpool doesn’t have any overhead boarding bridges or sloped gangways, so passengers have to board vessels by climbing up stepped gangways. And if they can’t do this with “minimal assistance” they won’t be allowed to cruise. Continue reading

Don’t Get Left at the Gate!

Learn the law, so you don’t get left at the gate!

Sometimes knowing the finer points of the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) can make the difference between having a trouble-free flight, and literally being left at the gate. Such was the case for Jerremy Lorch, a wheelchair-user who was recently denied boarding on an Air Canada flight to Toronto from the Greater Rochester International Airport. Continue reading

Cancer Patient Denied Boarding — Could it Happen to You?

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

A Denied Boarding with a Tragic Twist

There’s certainly no shortage of denied airline boardings involving wheelchair-users who travel unaccompanied. And for the most part these incidents usually involve passengers who are unable to evacuate the airplane on their own, in the event of an emergency.

But here’s a new twist on it all. What if the airlines are unable to physically accommodate a disabled passenger? And what if this happens, not once, not twice, but three times? And what if the passenger dies as a result of that denied boarding? Well, that’s exactly what happened to Vilma Soltesz last month; and now attorney Holly Ostrov Ronai is seeking $6 million in damages from the airlines, claiming that they violated the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). Continue reading

Troubling Royal Air Maroc Incident

I hear a lot of stories about air travel gone wrong, and at this point it’s kind of hard to throw something new my way. Kind of hard, but not impossible; as evidenced by the following saga of Abdelkader Sifer and his daughter Siham on a recent Royal Air Maroc flight. Continue reading

FAA Weighs in on Seatbelt Extensions for Torso Support

Although the blogosphere is all atwitter about the recent denied boarding of a quadriplegic passenger who used seatbelt extensions to stabilize his chest and legs, nobody has really addressed the legality of it all. That’s because there’s really nothing in the Air Carrier Access Act that specifically allows or prohibits this type of adaptation. Not just seatbelt extensions, but any kind of torso support. Continue reading