Another Airline Horror Story — And a Solution

On a recent flight the airline damaged my wheelchair. It had a bent wheel, push rim and axle, but it still kind of worked. I emphasize “kind of”. That presented a big problem, because since I could still use it, the airline gave me a hard time about getting it repaired. I was persistent, and they finally repaired it, but it took a very long time. It seems things are really going down hill on airlines (all the way around). Do you have any suggestions as to how to prevent a repeat incident the next time I fly?

Sorry about your damaged wheelchair. It’s unfortunate that the airlines (all airlines) don’t understand the difference between “useable” and “repaired”. But I think the problem goes beyond that. It’s not that they hassled you about the repair, but that they damaged your wheelchair in the first place. So there are two ways that you effect change regarding this.

First (and I’m assuming that you already did this) you can complain to the airline. They are required to respond to all disability complaints and keep statistics on them, and report them to the Department of Transportation (DOT) at the end of the year. It’s from these statistics that the DOT determines if some sort of “crack down” is perhaps warranted. It’s especially telling when the disability statistics go up.

The second thing you can do (and I highly encourage you to do this) is to make an Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) complaint to the DOT. By doing this you band together with other folks who have had similar problems (even though you don’t know them), as when the DOT receives a number of similar complaints on the same airline, they take action. They fine the airline and they also usually require some sort of remediation — in other words they want the airline to put some policies in place to insure that this won’t happen again.

Filing an ACAA complaint is easy — you can find the form at airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/forms/382form.pdf . Just print it and fill it out.

It’s really the most productive way to effect change, because quite frankly in this day and age things like this just shouldn’t happen.