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United Airlines Response to Accessible Travel Complaint

United Airlines Response to Accessible Travel Complaint

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Published by Jaclyn Allmon
My mother, Jan Allmon, became paralyzed at T8 in March of 2011 from a neurological condition known as transverse myelitis. Until our vacation to Vermont in June, 2012 , she had yet to experience flying with accessibility issues. To prepare for the flight, we did our research and contacted the appropriate parties to assure that we were just as informed about our flight as the airline was with our additional needs. The flying experience was less than "seamless" for someone with accessibility issues. http://www.iwearblue.com/2012/07/one-month-and-not-one-word-from-united.html
My mother, Jan Allmon, became paralyzed at T8 in March of 2011 from a neurological condition known as transverse myelitis. Until our vacation to Vermont in June, 2012 , she had yet to experience flying with accessibility issues. To prepare for the flight, we did our research and contacted the appropriate parties to assure that we were just as informed about our flight as the airline was with our additional needs. The flying experience was less than "seamless" for someone with accessibility issues. http://www.iwearblue.com/2012/07/one-month-and-not-one-word-from-united.html

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Published by: Jaclyn Allmon on Jul 31, 2012
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07/31/2012

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July 19, 2012Ms. Jaclyn Allmon5947 Williamsburg Rd Alexandria, VA 22303-2211Dear Ms. Allmon:This letter is written in response to the e-mails you submitted to the airline on June 19, 2012,June 20, 2012 and June 21, 2012, in addition to your correspondence submitted to the U.SDepartment of Transportation (DOT), which was received in our office on June 29, 2012
regarding your mother, Jan Allmon’s, recent travel with our service.
We, along with our airlinepartners, value our customers, and it is our goal to provide our customers with the highest levelof service at all times. I regret if we failed to meet your expectations, and appreciate theopportunity to respond to your concerns.Our records show your mother, along with you and a travel companion, traveled on flight 5969,operated by ExpressJet doing business as United Express, from Washington, DC to Burlington,VT on June 15, 2012. Your return travel was on flight 3921, operated by Colgan Air doingbusiness as United Express, from Burlington, VT to Washington, DC on June 18, 2012. Youadvised in your correspondence that your mother is paralyzed. You informed the airline thatshe would need an aisle chair and confirmed this information at the ticket counter. Although flight 5969 operated by ExpressJet was delayed, you stated the aisle chair arrived only5 minutes before boarding. The attendants who assisted your mother on the aircraft advisedthat the armrest could not go up. Your boyfriend lifted your mother, subsequently bumping her head on the overhead bin. Mid-flight, you figured out how to raise the armrest and indicatedthat the airline violated 382.81 by not providing and or ensuring personnel are trained in proper use of moveable aisle armrests. When the flight landed in Burlington, an aisle chair was there,but no attendant. After waiting 10 minutes on the plane, you stated that the flight captainadvised you that no one had arrived and encouraged you to use the aisle chair on your own,although your family had no experience in using this device.On your return, when boarding for flight 3921 operated by Colgan Air began, you and your boyfriend went to the counter to ask for an aisle chair for your mother. The agent was frantic, asshe realized there was no aisle chair at the gate, and the plane utilized stairs for boarding. Your mother was not able to pre-board, as you had to wait until the aisle chair arrived, where in whichyou state the airline failed to follow Part 382.93 with regard to pre-boarding. The attendant whoassisted your mother with the transfer to the aisle chair for this flight advised he did not knowhow to operate the lift and called for assistance. Your mother was then transferred to her seatin front of a plane full of people. You noted that you e-mailed the airline on June 19, 2012regarding this experience, but had not received any response.
 
 
Page 2Ms. Allmon, we share in your concerns regarding the described experiences. We, along with
our airline partners, want every aspect of our customers’
travel with us to be safe andenjoyable. We are disappointed when any occurrence leaves you with a negative impression.We are committed to responding to communications received in our office in a timely manner;however, due to the current high volume of e-mails, it is taking longer to process and respond toall correspondence received. I regret we were not able to respond to your concerns or acknowledge your e-mails sooner. However, my response, as of today, July 19, 2012 is within30 days of receipt of your initial communication, which meets the requirements in accordancewith DOT 14 CFR Part 382.Our records show flight 5969 was delayed, due to the late arrival of equipment. As wheelchairsare in high demand, especially specialized aisle chairs, to ensure the wheelchairs and staff areeffectively optimized, they are not customarily left idle at gates in the larger airports, especiallywhen operations has reported a flight is going to be delayed. The gate agent, upon self-identification of the passenger at the gate, should notify the contracted wheelchair vendor prior to the onset of boarding to have the appropriate assistance dispatched. The contractedwheelchair vendor in Washington advised that their dispatch office received the call from thegate for flight 5969 requesting an aisle chair boarding at 1:00 p.m. and the attendantsresponded immediately.The aircraft used for flight 5969, was listed as an Embraer 
 –
RJ145 Regional Jet, which hasmoveable armrests on all rows except bulkhead 1A and 3B and 3C. Your mother was assigneda seat in row 6. The wheelchair attendants who assisted your mother on flight 5969 did nothave any recollection of the incident you described. The wheelchair attendants are responsiblefor transferring the passenger to their assigned seat prior to leaving the aircraft with the aislechair. One of the attendants stated that he does not allow relatives of passengers to assist withaisle chair transfers, as they are not trained. We did not have any reports submitted regardingany passenger injuries onboard the aircraft. I regret if there was a miss understanding or miss
communication with regard to the arm rest on your mother’s seat and or if she needed to be
moved again after the attendants were no longer present. If you would like to file a medicalclaim regarding an injury sustained on board the aircraft, you may contact our RiskManagement department at 888-723-3324, Monday
 –
Friday between the hours of 8:00 a.m.
 –
 4:00 p.m. Central Standard Time or by U.S. mail at: United Airlines, Risk Management, P.O.Box 4607 HRSRK, Houston, TX 77210-4607 for assistance.The pilot for flight 5969 stated that it is his practice to inform the station via ACARS messageand or radio of the requirements for any wheelchair/aisle chair assistance. He advised he wasnot aware of any aisle chair problems or situations, for this flight. While your letter to the airline
states, “
He allowed us to use the aisle chair to get my mother off the plane, even though we had no idea how to operate the chair, buckles or locks 
.”, your letter to the DOT states, “
He encouraged us to use the aisle chair to get my mother off the plane, even though we had no idea how to operate the chair, buckles or locks 
.”
The pilot reported that he did not, nor did hiscrew, advise any passengers to utilize an aisle chair. We realize our customers are anxious to
 
 
Page 3be on their way; however, there are times when there is a minimal wait as staff complete their assistance of other passengers.We recognize the importance of pre-boarding passengers with disabilities who self-identify atthe gate as needing additional time or assistance to board, stow accessibility equipment or beseated.
Please know that although a passenger’s reservation is documented with a special
service request, our staff is not aware of who that person is until they self-identify with the gateagent. As you stated in your communication, when boarding for flight 3921 began for those withspecial needs, as is required by law, you and your boyfriend went to the counter to ask for theaisle chair. I can certainly understand your frustration, and disappointment, as the agent had torequest the chair and this prevented your mother from having the opportunity to pre-board.Some passengers with disabilities elect not to pre-board and chose to board with their group,etc., and we respect their decision to do so. It is important that customers self-identify at thegate with our staff so that we can confirm pre-boarding or make other arrangements, as needed.Ms. Allmon, I am so sorry if the service we provided did not meet your expectations and causedyour mother embarrassment and to no longer desire to travel by air. We work hard to besensitive to the needs of our passengers with disabilities and special needs to try and ensuretheir travel experience is as stress free as possible. We recognize that there is still work to bedone
, as we try to meet each customer’s
individual needs. Based on the information obtained inour investigation, I can not substantiate that the attendants were not trained appropriately withregard to the armrests for flight 5969 and that pre-boarding was not offered, although; grantedyour mother did not have the opportunity to take advantage due to self-identification at the gate.Therefore; I deny any violation at this time with regard to Part 382 of the Air Carrier Access Act(ACAA) §382.81 and §382.93. However, your obvious displeasure with regard to our servicehas been taken to heart. As you are aware, any airline customer who feels a carrier has violated disability laws or has notbeen responsive to disability service concerns has the right to contact the Air Consumer Division of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to seek their involvement. Also, if your mother does allow us the privilege to assist her with future travel and incurs any difficultiesrelated to disability assistance, she can request to speak with a Complaint Resolution Official(CRO). The CRO will act as an advocate, to ensure that our staff is meeting her individualneeds.

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