UPDATE: United has apologized.
A strange and awful story reported on Consumerist – awful, if true (and I have no reason to believe it’s a hoax or anything of that nature – there are too many details that could be checked, it seems to me – but we are trying to learn more). It’s certainly creating a lot of buzz.
And I think it’s worth talking about, even though the details are sketchy – because the needs of the disabled just don’t often get a lot of thought from many of us.
Anyway, the story concerns a recent blog post by a self-described “disabled woman” with a spinal injury, who identifies herself as “Rachel D.” She writes that, on a recent United flight, she couldn’t lift her carryon bag into the overhead bin - and asked a flight attendant for help.
She claims this was the flight attendant’s chilly response:
“If I helped everyone do that all day then MY back would be killing me by the end of the day!” I asked her how I was supposed to get my luggage stowed and her answer was: “You’ll just have to wait for someone from your row to come back here and ask them to give you a hand.” When I asked what would happen if no one would, her response to me was: “Well, normally a passenger is around to overhear something like this and they’ll offer to help with it on their own. You’ll just have to ask someone when they get back here.”
Keep reading – it doesn’t get better…
After the flight, the disabled woman said she spoke to a United customer service supervisor and was told the following:
“I won’t apologize for [the flight attendant's] actions,” according to the author’s account of her conversation with the supervisor, “and I’m not sorry for what happened to you. It’s not in our contract to assist passengers with their luggage and we reserve the right to refuse assistance to anyone. If that’s what you need, then perhaps in the future, you should make other travel arrangements.”
Now, pay attention here: on United’s website, under “Mobility Assistance” it states that “Once passengers are onboard the aircraft, our flight attendants can help with stowing and retrieving carry-on items…”
Whether one has to sign-up for mobility assistance and/or pay for it, I cannot determine at this time – nor whether the disabled woman in this story opted for this service.
I want to be fair to both sides, but have had little luck getting responses. I tried to emailing the disabled woman, but the only response I got was that “email delivery is delayed” and I imagine her inbox has been inundated
Meanwhile, United’s spokesperson didn’t respond to a detailed email asking about this. However, I did see a Twitter message from @UnitedAirlines that seemed to reference the situation; it said, “We are deeply concerned, talking w/the customer today & ensuring the employee issues are addressed.” – and I mentioned this tweet in a second email to United asking for any information and United did respond but this is all they wrote: “That tweet is accurate.”
Now here is the latest from the disabled woman’s blog post (no date is mentioned):
“Just so I can keep all of you in the loop for what’s going on, United contacted me and has asked me to speak with them ‘regarding the issues I’ve raised.’ It’s a start and I’m crossing my fingers that the outcome is a positive one, so wish me luck in serving all my fellow disabled folks!”
When and if we learn more about this matter, we’ll be sure to pass it along. And here’s hoping for a happy ending.