Problems Flying with a Disability
I took a flight from Charlotte, NC to Las Vegas on May 16, 2021, and returned on May 23, 2021. Prior to the day of flying, I had tried to reach out to the accessibility department of American Airlines. I would wait on hold for awhile and at times I was told the call back time period would be over 4 hours. So, the day of the flight I went to the ticket counter and was given my seat assignment. I was give seat # 31E & F for me and my wife. I asked to see if I could get something closer and but I was advised the flight is full and this was the best they could do. Unless I would like to sit separately from my wife. I couldn’t do this because of the needs I have especially on a long flight. So, at the time of pre-boarding, I wasn’t able to board ahead of time because there was no aisle chairs available at the gate. So, I had to wait until an aisle chair was found. They started boarding the plane while I was waiting for the aisle chair to be found. When they got the aisle chair, I was then able to go down the sky deck and get to the entrance of the plane. Passengers are still loading on the plane. I switched to the aisle chair thinking I would get on soon, but I still had to wait. I did address the concern of the cushions on the aisle chair being thin and how these can affect the skin for people with spinal cord injuries as we don’t have the sensation in our bodies As the contractors were loading me on the plane, they just about dumped me into the inside wall of the plane. The contractors started taking me down the aisle and I was bounced around. I was pinched on the side of my stomach while going back to the row.
Once I got to Las Vegas, the contractors there brought an aisle chair on to the plane and I got into it. The straps didn’t work on the aisle chair. One of the contractors is trying to hold my legs together so they wouldn’t bang into the chairs. This wasn’t working that well. When we got to the emergency exit aisle I suggested they turn the chair around and back out towards the front of the plane. They took my advice. My leg had a spasm and fell off the aisle chair. Myself and the person assisting me off the plane advise the other party my foot is dragging on the ground. The party pulling me back didn’t listen and kept going. When we got to the front of the plane, she started turning the aisle chair while my leg is still on the ground and twisted my leg, because of not listening. As we are trying to depart the plane, both parties are behind me and are trying to raise the front of the aisle chair from behind the aisle chair. While doing this, they just about dumped me going forward. They got the aisle chair back on the plane at which time I requested them to allow me to get out of the aisle chair and transfer to my wheelchair. I advised them I can do it without any problems. They told me they couldn’t allow me to do this.
I shared my complaint to the airlines when I arrived at the hotel. I was advised I would hear back within 48 hrs. In which I heard back from them. The representative took my report and connected me with the accessibility department for my flight back. The representative assigned my seat for my return flight for seats 11 E & F. She assured that we would be entering the plane just behind 1st class and only having to go a couple rows to get to my seat.
When we got to the airport on May 23 , this wasn’t the case. The entrance to the plane was in front of 1st class. This would mean I would be be in a aisle chair for 11 rows and not just 2 rows. When I got to Charlotte, the plane departed from in front of 1st class. This aisle chair was missing several straps from the chair. I have shared my concern again to the airlines.
I also contacted the airport and shared my concerns with them. I also offered my assistance to them about the aisle chairs as well as the use of shuttle buses. I still haven’t heard anything back from the airport with my suggestion.