Know your Rights – My Story

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Last December, I flew back with my husband and daughter for Christmas to see our family in California. Everything went fine on the day we arrived. It was December 23rd. So near to Christmas, I had prepared myself for challenges and delays that day. However, except for the TV not working in our motel room everything worked out fine. Even that problem worked out to our benefit because we were upgraded to bigger room for no extra cost! Kudos to Super 8!

Before I go any further, let me explain some of the major challenges I have flying anywhere! This is why I have taken to the friendly skies only five times in my 51 years! I need assistance to board and deplane the aircraft. You all know how incredibly narrow the aisle is on the plane. I cannot afford first class, so I have to plan  every detail of the trip well in advance. I can’t book a seat with a site such as Priceline either because I am required to make arrangements through my chosen airline. On a 737, aisle 6 is just behind first class; these seats have a bit of extra leg room, and I don’t have to be in that aisle chair too long. I also have the worry that that my $22,000 power chair is being treated with care because that chair has become a part of me, for it is my independence. Without it, I am stuck in bed! I have seem how the luggage is treated, so that is a major concern.

On the return trip, things begin to go wrong. We had a layover in Seattle before we caught our much shorter flight home, but our connecting flight was delayed. OK, I had a sense of foreboding, but I said a prayer and tried to put it out of my mind. We were also informed that we had been moved from aisle 6 to 13. I should have followed my instinct and insisted on my original seat. Not wishing to make a scene, I did not say much, in spite of my growing sense of unease. Getting into my seat was a good deal more difficult this time. I had to fight off an anxiety attack as my pants kept catching on the arms of the seats. However, I just kept thinking that I would be home soon.

We landed about an hour late, so it was 11, not 10 PM. Deplaning was a complete nightmare! They had a skeleton crew left to assist me, and they had no idea how to work together. I kept telling them that I was not seated on the chair well. My right pant leg was hanging up on each seat as went by at a snail’s pace. As they tried, unsuccessfully, to adjust me in the chair, they were talking to me as though I was a 5-year-old, without my mommy. Their cheer leading did nothing to keep my pants up, my underwear from showing or my frazzled nerves in check. It took over an hour to get me off the plane. I didn’t quite fall, my socks slid off my feet as they dragged on the tarmac. I was glad that my husband had the blanket ready for me. I needed to regain some degree of modesty, and I needed its warmth because it was literally freezing outside.

I will give them credit, my chair was there and intact, for the most part. I should have advocated for myself!  But I wanted to tell all of you that each airline are required to assist any person who requires it.

The Air Carrier Access Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in air travel and requires air carriers to accommodate the needs of passengers with disabilities. In 1990 The Department of Transportation issued a rule defining the rights of passengers and the obligations of air carriers under this law. The following is a summary of the main points of the DOT rule (Title 14 CFR, Part 382). For more detailed information, here is the site:

http://www.disabilitytravel.com/airlines/air_carrier_act.htm

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Know your Rights – My Story

  1. Hi Kathy, What a horrible experience you had on the airplane. they should never have moved you to such an inaccessible seat; the airline should have known better than that and had taken care to provide accessible accommodations for you and the airline workers should also know better and be more sensitive while assisting you. I hope your travels in the future are much much better and enjoyable for you.

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