My mom needs wheelchair assistance at the airport because she really can’t walk very far. I made arrangements with the airline for an airport wheelchair when I made her reservation, but there were none available at the curb when we arrived. I asked the employee at the luggage drop about it, and he told me that the airline contracted out the service. He called for a wheelchair, but it was over 30 minutes before one arrived. I filed a complaint with the airport authority, but I’m wondering what I can do to prevent this from happening in the future. Do you have any suggestions?
I’m sorry for the lack of service provided to you by the airline — yes, the airline. Even though most airlines contract out wheelchair assistance to another company, under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) the airlines are still directly responsible for all of the actions or inactions of their contractors.
That said you should have also filed a complaint with the airline. Under the ACAA you have 45 days to do this, and the airline is then required to respond to you in 30 days.
Additionally, it’s also a good idea to file a complaint with the Department of Transportation (DOT). You have six months to do this; and to be honest, it’s the best way to effect change. The DOT has the authority to fine the airlines for lapses in accessible services, and to require remedial training where needed.
The easiest way to file an ACAA complaint is to use their web form airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/escomplaint/consumerform.cfm
You can also submit a letter outlining the details of the incident to the DOT at the following address:
US Department of Transportation
Aviation Consumer Protection Division, C-75-D
1200 New Jersey Ave., SE
Washington DC 20590
In the future, when you have an access problem with an airline, it’s best to contact the Complaints Resolution Official (CRO). Just tell any employee that you’d like to speak to the CRO. If they don’t have any idea who the CRO is, ask to speak to their supervisor. The CRO is trained in access issues and has the authority to quickly resolve problems. All US airlines are required to have a CRO on duty during operating hours.
And while you are waiting for the CRO, tweet the heck out of your plight, and don’t forget to include a hashtag with the airline name. Most of the airlines have social media people who are assigned to monitor things like this, and it really does work. I’ve know several readers who tweeted for an airport wheelchair when they were stranded at the gate, and they got assistance within minutes.
I hope your mother’s future travels go much smoother.