I started flying American Airlines as an unaccompanyied minor at 7 years old. I can't even count the number of flights my family and myself have taken on American Airlines over the years. So... when I went to visit family after a few years of not flying my first thought was American Airlines.
When I booked my flight with American Airlines I notified customer service I would need special accommodations on both my flight out and and on the return leg of my flight. I was assured I would be taken care of as AA believes handicapped passengers comfort and convenience are thier most important concerns per thier web site. Unfortunately this did not happen and caused me great distress during my travel with AA.
When I departed my plane (644) at DFW I was told by the desk clerks there were no wheelchairs were available. There was one female in a wheelchair by the AA desk and three of us looking for wheelchairs or cart assistance and one juvenile blind male left to stand by himself next to the desk. We all asked the clerks for assistance several times in the span of 20 minutes and were assured someone would be coming to just stand (ya we are handicapped!) by the desk. One of the women told the desk clerks she did not want to miss her flight again, that she had missed her last flight because she was unable to get assistance for her prior flight. Eventually one male employee arrived and said he couldn't help the rest of us and took the woman in the wheelchair and walked the blind male to thier gates. One of the women I was standing with wandered more into the concourse and she offered a cart driver driving by with a empty cart money to take us to our gates. He complied and drove me to my gate and dropped her with another cart driver to get to hers.
On my return trip from Monroe Louisiana I sat waiting in the lobby waiting for my plane. It was well after our flight was to depart when we were notified by loud speaker our flight 4770 was going to be delayed and was just now leaving DFW en route to our location. I then called AA and asked them to please help me with scheduling me on another flight out of DFW because I didn't know with this flight being delayed if I would make my flight to Denver. The AA representative was able to schedule me on another flight. I also requested from him assistance for my disability to get from one gate to another. He said it was already noted in the computer and wasn't an issue. I told him about my prior problem at DFW with assistance and he assured me it was a fluke and would not happen again, he said if it did to call the DFW Department of Public Safety at 972-574-xxxx and ask for a cart to transfer me from the gates.
When I exited the plane (4770) at DFW there was 4 employees with yellow vests (looked like tarmac workers) by the plane door with one folded up wheelchair on the ramp. No one said a word to me as I exited the plane. I was looking for my bag they had red tagged and found a group of people halfway up the ramp by a gray roll up door waiting for thier red tagged bags. AA employee Gus Geddings walked up to the man nearest the door and told him "When the light turns green push this button. The door will roll up and you can get your own bags off, have at it" and he then walked back down the ramp to the plane. The man rolled up the door and and people started pushing and shoving for bags. Mine was on the very top of the rack and I had a hard time getting it down (I'm short and have a hard time standing on my tip toes to reach things). Not to mention I believe this is in violation of ADA: accessible baggage check-in and retrieval areas. And also violation of ACCAA: outbound and inbound baggage facilities must provide efficient baggage handling for individuals with a disability, and these facilities must be designed and operated so as to be accessible I was able to get the corner of the bag and slide it off the rack about dropping it on my feet. I walked to the top of the ramp and didn't see anyone there to assist me to my next gate, no wheelchairs and no carts. I walked over to the AA desk and waited.
The AA Employee Gus Geddings came to the desk and said "What do you want?" I started to explain I was supposed to have assistance to my next gate and he cut me off and asked me for my paperwork before I could explain I called AA and changed flights to make the flight to Denver in case I missed my first connection. Then a man in a black suit (possibly a pilot?) with a tag that was yellow and said CREW walked up and said said that a female was puking just across from us in the concourse on the floor and to please call for some assistance for her. Gus told me to hold on, and I told him no problem. After we watch a cleaning person walk up to the female Gus Geddings advised me rather loudly in front of a lobby full of people "You better get to walking because they are boarding your flight now" after asking for a wheelchair or cart for assistance and telling him I have MS and a recent ankle surgery. Again he replied "You had a chance for a wheel chair when you got off the plane on the ramp and didn't take it, its gone, and you better get walking." I told him I didn't know if it was for me or someone else and I needed a cart and his supervisor. He ignored me and started helping the next person behind me in line. Everyone in the lobby was staring at me, I was in tears and horribly embarrassed and humiliated. The man with the CREW member badge mouth dropped open and he walked off towards the gate I had just exited.
I then called the Department of Public Service at DFW and asked for a AA supervisor and assistance with a cart or wheelchair. The operator said she would see what she could do.
I watched as a AA customer walked over and flagged down a cart and pointed at me. The cart driver asked if I was ok and apologized for the behavior of the desk agent. He said he would try and get me to my gate before the flight left and asked what gate I needed, I told him I had no idea (Gus never did tell me). On the way to the gate he found a AA supervisor Aronda Oniel. Ms. Oniel said to file a formal complaint to go to AA.com or call AA. She would be unable to do anything further than check flight status and assign me a seat on the flight I was trying to catch.
The cart driver did get me to my gate just as they were finishing boarding and took me to the AA desk for flight 2513. I was still sobbing and put into a wheelchair to board the flight. When I was at check in the AA agent said I needed to check my bag because "you waited till the last minute to board the plane". I barely made this flight in tears and now suffering an anxiety attack and now they wanted $25 to check my bag that I have used as a carry on previously. I told them it wasn't my fault and the other agent stepped in and took my bag and said she would personally take care of my bag for me and not to worry about it.
Upon exiting the plane in Denver I noticed two wheel chairs. Both had last names on pieces of paper on the seats reserving them. I cannot tell you how relieved I was to see my name. The employees were courteous and friendly, even offering to stop at a restroom before continuing to baggage claim.
The Air Carrier Access Act "On connecting flights, the delivering carrier is responsible for providing assistance to the individual with a disability in reaching his or her connecting flight". I had repeatedly asked for assistance, not only by phone but also in person. I was not the only person on at least one of my flights that was denied this simple request for assistance. While looking at me you may not realize I have a disability, but that does not mean I do not. And I shouldn't have to explain to any of the employees what my disability is and what my limitations are to get help. I think your agent at DFW Gus Geddings needs to be reprimanded and sensitivity training given. The ACAA recommends "Through training of all air travel personnel who come in day-to-day contact with persons with disabilities, to understand their needs and how they can be accommodated quickly, safely, and with dignity." I have never been treated so poorly by an airline or its employees in all my years of traveling.
American Airlines is in violation of ACAA by not having a Complaints Resolution Official (CRO) immediately available (even if by phone) to resolve disagreements which may arise between the carrier and passengers with disabilities. Travelers who disagree with a carrier’s actions toward them can pursue the issue with the carrier’s CRO on the spot. I was not afforded this opportunity as no one was available even after making several complaints and requests for a supervisor. Once finding a supervisor being told she was unauthorized to do anything.
Thank you so much for taking the time to write about the difficulties you encountered when you traveled with us recently from Denver to Monroe via Dallas/Fort Worth and return. I appreciate the opportunity to address your concerns.
We are truly sorry for your disappointment with the level of service you received in Dallas/Fort Worth on both occasions. Since you mentioned that you did not receive assistance in either instance, our contractor there was asked to investigate your experience. I was advised that when you arrived on flight 644 from Denver on December 30, a wheelchair attendant arrived at the gate within 5 minutes to ensure you and several other passengers with special needs were deplaned then helped further to either baggage claim or to connecting gates. Therefore, had you waited, you would have been accommodated. ( Does this constitute a holding area? CFR 14 Part 382.55(c) states “Carriers shall not restrict the movements of persons with a disability in terminals or require them to remain in a holding area or other location in order to be provided transportation, to receive assistance, or for other purposes, or otherwise mandate separate treatment for persons with a disability, except as permitted or required in this part. “)
Regarding your arrival in Dallas/Fort Worth on January 2 on American Eagle flight 4770 operated by Executive Airlines, the wheelchair attendant you saw on the jetbridge was actually there to assist you. However, you did not identify yourself to him. Therefore, he left the area.
According to our gate agent, you approached him and advised you needed wheelchair service. He asked you to have a seat and he would make a call to have the wheelchair attendant return to the gate. He told you that there would probably be a brief wait involved. ( does this consitute a holding area? Although he just ignored me and never told me to wait) When you became upset and asked for a supervisor, he requested one during the time he placed a call to have the wheelchair attendant come back for you. Unfortunately, the supervisor did not arrive while you were still at the gate. The wheelchair attendant did ultimately return, but you had already walked away from the gate area at this point.
Please allow us to mention that our procedures have been designed to be in full compliance with the U. S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations regarding the accommodation of customers with disabilities.
While from a regulatory perspective there was no violation regarding wheelchair service in either instance, there regrettably was a violation when a supervisor was not made available to speak with you. We should also mention that any customer may pursue DOT enforcement action if they wish to do so.
We appreciate hearing from our customers when problems arise, as it gives us the opportunity to examine how we have performed and work to improve our service in the future. Accordingly, let us assure you that your comments have been forwarded to the appropriate management personnel in Dallas/Fort Worth. We are confident your criticism will be used constructively.
As a gesture of goodwill, we have made arrangements for an eVoucher ($100) for you to use toward the purchase of a ticket to travel with us.
Ms. Lindley, we sincerely hope you will give us the opportunity to restore your confidence in our ability to meet all your travel needs. We want your business and respect, and we will work hard to earn both.
We welcome all customer feedback. Should you wish to contact us again, please do so via ... and we will be back with you as soon as possible.