13 April 2010

United Flight Attendant Refuses To Help Disabled Woman With Bags

Hello All BlkAv8tor2003 Checking In!!!

As if things in the airline industry seem to sound more strange everyday, here comes another incident where a passenger needed assistance and a flight attendant refused to assist the passenger. It sounds like a situation of a crew member giving a passenger a hard time and being very direct in her reasoning about it but if you read the whole story then the tables seem to turn the other way. I posted a link to the full story after the excerpt from the passengers blog. You really should read the passengers full story to get an idea of what happened.

As a former flight attendant and customer service manager, it's sad to hear such a response was given from a crew member! The airline should have had a better response to the situation than that...at least sound caring or concerned! I read the passengers story and it sounded like it was full of tiring situations!

The rest of my comments are after the passenger excerpt.

(Excerpt) I boarded the plane and made my way back to my aisle seat where I set down my special seat cushion and lumbar brace before looking around for a flight attendant to help me put my luggage in the overhead compartment. The attendant standing in the front section of economy was a blonde woman probably in her late 40s-50s and I called her over to explain that I needed her assistance because I wasn't capable of lifting my luggage due to my disability.

To my surprise, the attendant rejected my request while excusing it by saying: "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." Then she turned back around and went up to the front seats where she waited to "assist" other passengers.

I was completely flabbergasted, but with no other option, I sat down to wait and pulled my carry-on suitcase as close as I could to try to get it out of the way of the aisle. As I'm sure you're aware, however, your aisles are considerably narrow and even my best efforts left half of even my small carry-on suitcase in the aisle. What's more, rather than help me, most of the passengers simply knocked into my suitcase and shoved past me on the way to their own seats. Every time they hit the suitcase, it in turn hit me and jarred my back more and more with each strike.

The plane wasn't even half boarded and it already felt like the pain medication I'd taken less than a half hour prior to entering the airport had worn off as though I hadn't taken it at all. Finally, it was too much and I dropped my suitcase down into the aisle to stop the flow and ask one of the men passing me for help before he went looking for his seat. As he was lifting it, he asked me if I was all right and I told him about my injury. He apologized profusely for my condition and tried to make me feel better by assuring me I would be okay eventually. I doubt either of us believed it, but at that point, it was nice to hear that, even from a total stranger. Full Story Here

("Evilpuppy", is the passenger's blog name) "Evilpuppy" was not exactly the perfect passenger.

This is the problem that passengers run into when they "assume" what the flight attendants, pilots, customer service agents or the airline can and cannot do for you. Flight attendants are truly not there to put your baggage in an overhead bin. It is up to you the passenger to load and unload your baggage in and out of the overhead bins. If you can't lift your own luggage above your head then what makes you think the airline provides someone to do that for you? This is what I mean when I say most passengers don't really know what the job or the duties of the flight attendant are.

"Evilpuppy" has a known disability or injury and you’re carrying on a roll-a-board suitcase? You knew before you left that you would not be able to lift your bag and you assumed it was the flight attendant job to put it in the overhead bin for you. Then when she refused you acted shocked! Now how she refused is wrong in all respects and is not excusable but you should have thought about your disability when packing your luggage. If your back disables you from lifting your own suitcase into the bins, then you should have checked your suitcase and not rolled it aboard and carry on a much smaller bag with your necessary essentials.

United's overall response was just crazy and unfortunately I do believe that a flight attendant and an agent would possibly respond to a passenger the way they responded to you! Your case is not singular and not the last one people will read about. I know as a flight attendant you have to be very careful when dealing with passengers regarding visual and non-visual disabilities. Passengers also must be proactive with their disabilities and give the people around them ample warning without assumptions that help will always be provided or assumed. Just because a passenger is in a wheelchair doesn't mean they want or need help to move about but the person able to offer assistance may not know that.

So I suggest that "Evilpuppy" you may need to be more proactive with your disability seeing how it's not visual. It will require you to change your thought process about the way you travel so that people that are available to help you know that you’re not exploiting their services with your disability and you actually need help. Again the experience you had was all the way wrong and it should have been handled much better.

The flight attendant was wrong to a point in her actions and what she said but you did get on the plane assuming that the flight attendant would do the lifting for you. So in the future you may want to find another way to get your baggage to your destination i.e.. Checking your baggage, ship your baggage ahead via UPS or FedEx and only carry-on your absolute necessities that you can manage without difficulty.

I'm not trying to bash you (the victim) but this situation can be avoided well before passengers get on the plane. Hopefully in your future travel plans you’re more proactive and the crew on your flights will be much more accommodating to you and your disability.

The airlines as a whole are having a tough time surviving in today's economy and finding good people to run the airline is easily found and also easily forgotten. The airlines need to go back to what use to work and passengers need to understand that flying on the airlines is a privilege and not a right even though they may have payed for a service. Things like this don't happen everyday and hopefully they will be few and far between but they will happen again and I hope whomever reads this will think ahead to lessen the chances of this happening to them.

As I always say: Be Proactive Not Reactive and Enjoy Your Flight!!!