United Airlines Complaint Filed November 5, 2015
Original Picture Exhibits A-K Enclosed
Original Picture Exhibits A-K Copies Attached
Exhibit K: Videos and other Date Stamps Available Upon Request
MY RECENT FLIGHT: On October 22, 2015 I traveled on United Airlines (“United”) Flight 278 on a single aisle A320 from Seattle (SeaTac) to Chicago, IL (Chicago O’Hare) and returned on United Flight 241 to Seattle October 26, 2015 on single aisle B737-800/900.
COMPLAINT #1: THE ON BOARD WHEELCHAIR WAS NOT COMPLIANT WITH THE LANGUAGE IN THE AIR CARRIER ACCESS ACT (“ACAA”)
THE LAW: ACAA Section 382.21 Subsection (iii) of paragraph 4 states “On-board wheelchairs shall include footrests, armrests which are movable or removable, adequate occupant restraint systems, a backrest height that permits assistance to passengers in transferring, structurally sound handles for maneuvering the occupied chair, and wheel locks or another adequate means to prevent chair movement during transfer or turbulence. The chair shall be designed to be compatible with the maneuvering space, aisle width, and seat height of the aircraft on which it is to be used, and to be easily pushed, pulled, and turned in the cabin environment by carrier personnel”.
ADVANCE NOTICE: Prior to the flight, on August 28, 2015, I spoke with United Disability Desk (agent [Hxx] in Detroit) and informed them of my planned travel and that I’d like to use the Onboard Wheelchair and access the lavatory. She stated the A320 flight had an accessible lavatory and Onboard Wheelchair. I was originally booked in row 23 and [Hxx] moved me to Row 7 so I’d be closer to the accessible lavatory (Exhibit A – Boarding Pass).
UNITED FLIGHT 278: While checking in at the SeaTac gate at 9:21AM prior to the scheduled departure flight time at 10:12 AM, I informed the agent of my request. While onboard the flight I met flight attendant [Mxx] (Exhibit B) and again explained my request. During the flight they brought out the Onboard Wheelchair. It was not structurally sound or functional. So poor, in fact, that I decided it was unsafe and a mistake to even attempt using it. The Onboard Wheelchair was not usable (i) in toileting functions or (ii) transporting me from my seat 7D to the lavatory. It was certainly not compliant with ACAA rules. My notes are as follows:
1. Total Onboard wheelchair weight maybe 3-5 lb. Very flimsy (Exhibit C)
2. No armrests or structurally sound handles (Exhibits C, D and F)
3. No ability for me to maneuver Onboard chair whatsoever. (Exhibits C, D and F)
4. Upon 1st inspection neither flight attendant [Mxx] nor I could see any wheel locks on any of the 4 wheels. (It’s impossible to transfer in the lavatory without secure brakes). (Exhibit D)
About 20 minutes after our attempt, [Mxx] returned and stated “I read the manual and it showed applying foot pressure on back wheel brakes. But I tried that and it seemed insecure. It wobbled a little bit”.
The brakes did not provide a means to “secure” the chair or an adequate means to prevent chair movement during transfer or turbulence.
[Mxx] also stated, “the manual shows a diagram of the aisle chair with armrests but this chair doesn’t have any”.
5. Contrary to the ACAA and 1992 DOT Guidelines, flight attendant [Mxx] stated she would not be able to assist in the lavatory other than position the chair and apply the back brake.
6. There would have been no method for me to either maneuver the chair or secure the chair in the lavatory. Lavatory mobility and the ability to securely transfer were not available.
7. The Onboard wheelchair footrest was not functional. (Exhibits D and E) The footrest extended about 6 inches but at a significant downward angle (probably 30-40 degree angle). There was a wheelchair seat belt but no Velcro strap or fastener to hold my feet or legs in place. It would have been nearly impossible for the flight attendant to roll me down the aisle without my feet repeatedly slipping off the footrest. I believed going the entire length of the plane and back again without a functional footrest was not a good, safe choice for me.
8. Because there were no adequate occupant restraint systems, my legs and feet could not be secured, and the Onboard wheelchair was not easily pushed, pulled, and turned in the cabin environment by United personnel.
9. Backrest height was 6-8 inches (Exhibit C and F). It was made of lightweight nylon type material (like wind breaker weight). (Without higher, stronger backrests, it’s impossible for me to complete toileting function).
10. On August 28 United agent (in Detroit) [Hxx] had moved my seat from row 23 to row 7 to be closer to front accessible lavatory. But once onboard [Mxx] stated they were going to take me from the front of the plane (row 7) to the rear lavatory because there was a curtain and more privacy. Additionally my reassigned seat in Row 7 had no “pull-up accessible arm” thus making transfer from my seat 7D to the Onboard Wheelchair much more difficult. The United Disability Desk should know better. This was another reason to abort the attempt of using the Onboard wheelchair.
11. Prior to landing [Mxx] came back and took my full name and seat number and said inflight services would be in contact with me. [Sxx], Base Supervisor Inflight Services actually met me at the gate at Chicago O’Hare. I told [Mxx] and agent [Sxx] I would be filing a complaint.
12. Both [Mxx] and [Sxx] were very nice. Very professional. Agent [Sxx] has not subsequently contacted me.
13. My last drink of water was at 6:10 am and I could not drink liquids again until just after the plane landed at 4:00 pm (Chicago time). Very unhealthy for a paraplegic who medically requires lots of liquids.
COMPLAINT #2: UNITED DENIED MY REQUEST TO STOW MY FOLDING WHEELCHAIR IN THE ONBOARD CLOSET.
THE LAW: ACAA Section 382.41 “Stowage of Personal Equipment” provides that Carriers shall provide for on-board stowage of passenger wheelchair on a priority basis.
UNITED FLIGHT 241 (Chicago to Seattle)
1. At the gate check-in (10:10am Chicago time) 2 hours prior to flight departure scheduled at 12:19PM (I was by far the 1st passenger at the departure gate). I again requested United stow my manual fold-up wheelchair onboard in accordance with ACAA. The United agent stated this particular B737 did not have a storage closet and I would be required to check my wheelchair and stow it in baggage. (The A320 initial first flight 278 did not have a storage closet so I accepted this United agent comment). However, I inquired more closely and mentioned that I thought most B737s had an onboard storage closet. He stated this particular B737 aircraft did not, so I checked my wheelchair and it was stowed below in baggage.
Once onboard, however, I saw that the aircraft did in fact have a storage closet. (Exhibit G) It was even marked “Wheelchair Inside” (Exhibit H). Once onboard, I discovered United used the closet to stow (i) the aircraft’s Onboard Wheelchair and (ii) 1st Class passengers suit coats.
It is very clear in Section 382.41 of the ACAA that I have first priority to store my personal wheelchair onboard. United violated my rights under the ACAA.
COMPLAINT #3: UNITED IMPROPERLY DESIGNATED THE MID-AISLE LAVATORY AS “WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE”
1. Again placed in row 7 (Exhibit A – Boarding Pass) without a “pull-up accessible armrest” I was seated directly across the aisle from the lavatory. The lavatory was approximately 18-22 inches x 36 inches (no more than 6 Sq. Ft). (Exhibit I) I understand that most airline lavatories are small and single aisle aircraft lavatories are not covered under the ACAA. Yet United had inappropriately placed the “Universal Wheelchair Accessibility Sign” on the lavatory (Exhibit J). This particular lavatory was not accessible. When I inquired, a flight attendant on flight 241 and a United co-pilot seated next to me (not a co-pilot from flight 241) agreed it was clearly not accessible. United should be reprimanded and mandated to remove the wheelchair accessible signage.
DATED November 4, 2015
James A. Parsons
Cc: United Airlines
Department of Transportation