Chaos at the Sky Deck
I am 1 of 8 that came back from the National Veterans Wheelchair Games on the same flight from New York, NY to Charlotte, NC. Granted I thought the American Airlines staff did a good job handling out equipment and tagging them with wheelchair tags. Out of the eight using wheelchairs, two used access aisle chairs to board the plane. It was a little chaotic with loading us on the plane due to a shortage of aisle chairs and staff to assist us. But it was more chaotic when we got into Charlotte, NC. We were all getting off the plane. No one advised us that the wheelchairs weren’t on the sky deck. There was at least 6 of us waiting for our wheelchairs on the sky deck. Some of them got in the assistive chairs the contractors use to transport passengers in the airport or from the gate to the airplane. And went inside the airport to wait for their wheelchair. One veteran and myself stayed in the access aisle chairs and refused to leave the sky deck until we had our wheelchairs. While we were waiting for our wheelchairs, we are being told the wheelchairs are on to baggage claim. Since the two of us in the sky deck were refusing to move until we got our wheelchairs, the staff decided to bring the wheelchairs to us. I spoke with an American Airlines Supervisor/ Complaint Resolution Officer and there were a couple of key points that were the problem. There is a shortage of contractors working for them. The other problem could be is the staff filling out the wheelchair form didn’t fill out the forms properly. They omitted marking the form for where the wheelchair was to be delivered. The staff person never asked if we were to pick up the wheelchair at the gate or in baggage claim.
Another problem a female passenger with a disability asked a flight attendant to assist with carrying a small bag to the door of the plane while exiting the plane, the attendant told the passenger no. Here is what I learned from the supervisor, the flight attendant doesn’t have to assist a passenger with their luggage, due to she may injure herself moving or lifting a carry-on bag. But if an unaccompanied minor flies they could get the assistance with luggage. Or if a disabled passenger needs to use the portable aisle chair, then the flight attendant has to assist the passenger on the aisle chair and to get to the bathroom on the plane. Keep in mind, most disabled passengers weight more than a carry-on bag. With all the chaos about our wheelchairs, this delayed the next flight being able to leave on time. For disabled passengers that use wheelchairs or assistive devices, make sure they are at the gate before you get off the plane. Also, make sure when the gate check staff fills out the form for your assistive equipment that is having to go in the bottom of the plane, to make sure where you want to have the equipment delivered.Paul Stewart, SC