Airlines and Traveling with Mobility Devices. What you need to know!

As the holidays approach and the amount of air travel increases, you need to know what to do in case your wheelchair or other durable medical equipment gets broken during travel.

I cannot count the number of times my wheelchair has been broken or destroyed by an airline. Talking with other people with disabilities (PWD) I have found I am definitely not the only one! The U.S. Department of Transportation has fined US Airways $1.2 million for failure to provide wheelchair assistance to passengers with disabilities in Philadelphia and Charlotte, NC. This lawsuit is regards to the assistance for PWD’s. I am hoping they will enforce how they handle our wheelchairs and other durable medical equipment (DME). I’ve had my wheelchair broken almost a dozen times by different airlines. I use to travel constantly for work and then the burden of getting to meetings with a broken wheelchair started taking its toll. This was one of the reasons I decided I could no longer have a job that traveled as much as I did.

Here is an interesting article regarding the US Dept. of Transportation fining US Airways and new prototypes for accessible seats:

http://blog.amsvans.com/wheelchair-traveler-on-airlines-may-get-better-air-access/

Here is an interesting article regarding how airlines mishandle wheelchairs with video proof:
http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/10/18/disabled-wheelchair-airlines-damage-air-carriers-access-act/2962483/

Frontier Fined for Violating Rules Protecting Air Travelers with Disabilities Carrier violated Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) regulations:
http://www.dot.gov/briefing-room/frontier-fined-violating-rules-protecting-air-travelers-disabilities

Here is a link for the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) Manual:
http://www.dot.gov/individuals/air-consumer/what-airline-employees-airline-contractors-and-air-travelers-disabilities

WHAT TO DO IF YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE BEEN DISCRIMINATED AGAINST BY AN AIRLINE, IF THEY HAVE NOT FOLLOWED THE AIR CARRIER ACCESS ACT, AND IF YOUR WHEELCHAIR HAS BEEN BROKEN:

1. Inform the airlines immediately of your complaint.   You have a very limited time after your flight to notify them of any damage.  Most airlines give you 48 hours to report damage.  If you are reporting discrimination or complaints against the Carrier Access Act, you have 45 days to report.

2. Different airlines have different policies in regard to fixing your chair.  I always call a local wheelchair repair and get immediate service so it doesn’t ruin my entire trip.  By law the airlines are required to fix your chair if they broke it.  Some airlines give you the option of going to wherever you choose.  However on my last American Airline flight that my wheelchair was broken they wanted to use their own company because it was cheaper.  This took a month to fix (much longer than the 10 day turnaround my company stated) but it saved them money.  No other compensation was made to me.  When you notify them of the damage make sure you ask then if you can use your own wheelchair/mobility device repair company.  Feel free to shop around and see who can fix the chair the fastest.

3. Make a complaint to the Aviation Consumer Protection Division

Complaints Alleging Discriminatory Treatment Against Disabled
Travelers Under The Air Carrier Access Act and 14 CFR Part 382

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA, 49 U.S.C. 41705) prohibits discrimination by U.S. and foreign air carriers on the basis of physical or mental disability. The Department of Transportation, in interpreting and implementing the ACAA, has issued a rule (14 CFR Part 382) setting forth the standards of service which air carriers are expected to provide to disabled individuals.

DOT operates a toll-free hotline to assist air travelers with disabilities. The hotline provides general information to consumers about the rights of air travelers with disabilities and responds to requests for printed consumer information. It also assists air travelers with time-sensitive disability-related issues that need to be addressed in “real time.” Click here for information about this disability hotline.

If an individual believes that he or she has been subjected to treatment by an airline that violates the requirements of the ACAA or the rule and would like DOT to investigate the complaint, that person may submit a complaint to the Department’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division. We encourage you to use our web form. If you prefer, you may send us a letter or a completed paper complaint form at the following address:

Aviation Consumer Protection Division
Attn: C-75-D
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave, SE
Washington, D.C. 20590

The complainant should provide:

  • His or her full name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, if any, and the name of the party who suffered the alleged discriminatory conduct, if other than the person submitting the complaint;
  • The name of the air carrier involved in the incident, as well as the date of the incident, the place where it occurred and the flight number(s) involved;
  • A detailed description of the incident that you believe constituted discriminatory action, including names of those involved (or a description of the individuals) and names of any witnesses; and
  • Any other information you believe might be helpful in supporting your complaint. Please send copies (not originals) of any pertinent documents you have relating to the incident (e.g., ticket, boarding passes, itinerary sheets, and correspondence to and from the carrier involved).

Know your rights!  You should be familiar with the Airline Carrier Access Act (ACAA) regarding these 4 points :

1. Screening

2. Boarding and deplaning assistance.

3. Stowing and Treatment of personal equipment.

4. Services in the cabin/aisle chair etc.

DID AN AIRLINE BREAK YOUR WHEELCHAIR/MOBILITY DEVICE? DID THEY FIX THE SITUATION? WAS IT ENOUGH? I’D LOVE TO HEAR YOUR EXPERIENCES AND THOUGHTS!

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