I recently had a horrible experience with wheelchair assistance at American Airlines. I waited for over 40 minutes at curbside for a wheelchair for my mother, and finally after having the curbside luggage person call the folks in the terminal three times, they showed up. This happens every time I take my mom back to the airport after she visits me. Strangely enough she has no problems in her connecting airport or at her home airport. This is really starting to bother me. I understand that the people who provide the wheelchair assistance are contractors, but who should I direct my complaint to in order to yield the best results?
I’m sorry that you are having this ongoing problem. I agree, 40 minutes is much too long to wait for curbside wheelchair assistance.
You are correct too in saying that many times curbside assistance is provided by private contractors; however, under the Air Carrier Access Act (the rule that governs access on airlines) the airlines are still directly responsible for all of the actions or inactions of their contractors.
With that in mind, here’s what I’d do.
First, I would file a complaint with American Airlines. It has to be postmarked within 45 days of the incident, and the airline is required to respond to your complaint in writing within 30 days.
I would also file a separate complaint with the Department of Transportation (DOT). The DOT has the authority to fine the airlines for gross lapses in accessible services. Although they don’t act on all complaints, they have been known to fine airlines if they receive a lot of complaints about the same issue. This is really your best route to effecting change, as the airlines seem to pay attention when large sums of money are involved.
You have six months from the date of the incident to file a complaint with the DOT, and the easiest way to file one is to use the handy form on their website at . airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/escomplaint/consumerform.cfm.
Good luck. I applaud you for proactively addressing this issue, as speaking up is the only way to effect meaningful change.