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Old Aug 23, 04, 12:25 pm   #1
 
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Which airlines (if any) have a companion discount?

I have a multiply handicapped sister and when she travels, I have to accompany her. Do any US airlines offer a discount to a companion?

For example, she's going to go to New Mexico for a month, and I have purchased two round tickets for me, in addition to her one. ONe to take her out, and the other to go and bring her back.

It gets costly.
Thanks,
Rita
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Old Aug 23, 04, 9:49 pm   #2
 
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Airline Travel Companion Tickets

Quote:
Originally Posted by rkt10
I have a multiply handicapped sister and when she travels, I have to accompany her. Do any US airlines offer a discount to a companion?

For example, she's going to go to New Mexico for a month, and I have purchased two round tickets for me, in addition to her one. ONe to take her out, and the other to go and bring her back.

It gets costly.
Thanks,
Rita
rkt10, NW airlines used to offer a travel companion fare if you met all the other rules like an exact 7 day stay, Saturday overnight, etc. However, I don't see them listed anymore. More recently, MBNA sent me a free companion airfare voucher for taking a no-interest, no fee cash advance against my credit card as part of a promotion campaign they're running right now. I called MBNA and said I wanted to take advantage of the free companion airfare voucher. I took a cash advance of $100 which I promptly repaid and they sent me a brochure detailing how to get my free companion certificate. I could even choose the airline to travel on. Another company that I've traveled on a companion ticket was several years ago, Citibank had a promotion to get a free companion ticket on American Airlines if you signed up for their credit card. That saved me about $600. These are usually time-limited meaning the certificate expires at the end of a calendar year or one year from the point of request. Finally, they typically limit travel to within the contiguous US.

Right now advance purchase airfares are so low, you could practically travel 2 for 1 depending on where you travel to/from. If you don't already use an automated, ongoing fare alert search engine, www.travelocity.com has one where you enter up to 4 travel routes and tell it at what cost you want to receive an email if the price changes. Then, voile', you get an email that the fare is on sale! The only caution I would say about this approach is that these fares go off sale as quick as they go on so don't procrastinate about making a purchase, if interested.

One other option to consider is asking a hospital Social Worker if there is a United Way or other local resource that may be able to assist with your sister's transportation and/or cost. For example, if she travels to provide respite for a primary caregiver, a Social Worker or Pastor may be able to arrange a free Angel Flight, depending on her medical condition and the purpose of travel. My husband does these kind of good-will flights every month.

Best of Luck to You and Your Sister From Here in the Fog,

mrspilot
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Old Aug 24, 04, 7:57 am   #3
 
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mrspilot,
Thank you for your thoughtful response to my question. Christine's handicap is not so bad that she would need a life-flight or anything. She's retarded, epileptic, somewhat incontinent and severely unbalanced (literally, not emotionally ). Before her balance became a problem, she was able to fly as an unattended "child". But now that it's possible/probable that she would fall and then maybe mess herself, she really does need to be accompanied.

My parents were able to leave a small trust for Christine's benefit... and we've been using that as a source of paying for the tickets (mine and hers). But if there were a companion rate, I would love to take advantage of it.

You are right about the rates right now. However, for her to visit my sister in New Mexico for a month, the airfares total over $1100. It's really 3 for 1, since I end up taking two round trips for her one.

The only upside is that I collect both the ff miles for my trips and the ff miles on AMEX. So there is a slight benefit. And it is a bonus that I do enjoy flying, even tho I fly one day and return the next. I guess I should think of it as being a free mileage run of sorts, since the trust pays for the tickets.

God bless your husband for doing his mercy flights. He sounds like a good man.

Thanks again,
Rita
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Old Aug 27, 04, 7:04 am   #4
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Rita,

See my post in Coupon Connection for Northwest PD937 zone certs:

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=347582

This is not a companion fare deal but rather a discount travel coupon deal. The fare from MA to NM will be either $248 or $288 depending on the day of the week that you travel. You and your sister can get either CO, DL, or NW miles on these tickets.

If you can make use of them I am happy to send you three of them.
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Old Aug 27, 04, 7:39 pm   #5
 
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I would think the airlines would provide a companion fare, even for a recreational visit, especially if you do a turaround and your sister's doctor provides some kind of confirmation that it's medically necessary that she be accompanied. Our local disabled van service doesn't charge the $3 fare for the companion.

Not sure this is relevant, but my cousin is on Social Security because she is technically disabled due to metastasized cancer.

Social Security pays for her and her companion's transportation to medical treatments, hotel rooms, and meals. In her case she flies from Southeast Alaska to Seattle for treatment as there are no oncologists in SE Alaska, not even in the state capital, Juneau.

But I also remember someone who flew RT New York to Sydney to accompany children for visits with the other parent. (There are, or were at the time, no unaccompanied minors on international flights.) Other parent flies RT Sydney to New York to return the kiddies. No discounts, just a lot of inconvenience, and many, many ff miles.

Your parents were very wise to create the trust, and you are doing a remarkable job as caregiver. It would be nice if your other sister could be the companion on the return flight, but sometimes that isn't practicle. I'm glad you enjoy flying!
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Old Sep 15, 04, 1:17 am   #6
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rkt10
I have a multiply handicapped sister and when she travels, I have to accompany her. Do any US airlines offer a discount to a companion?
Unfortunately, US airlines do not, to my knowledge, offer any discounts for aides/companions of disabled passengers. Canadian and Australian airlines (last I looked...a couple of years ago) offer a 50% discount when a disabled passenger has a doctor certify they need a companion's assistance during flights.

It's a pet peeve of mine that if I were flying with a child under 12, I'd usually get a discount, but when I fly with my aide, I never do. It's not as though a child takes up less space or is served less food than an adult, so it's frustrating.
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Old Sep 24, 04, 9:59 pm   #7
 
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You could potentially have an ACA claim, then

If you are physically disabled, and require physical care which is not provided by FAs (help to bathroom, help eating, etc, if required) and they do not accommodate your attendant at no charge, you may have a claim under ACA that you have not been provided "equal access to a public accommodation".

Call the airline you're interested in flying and ask for their Air Carrier Act Compliance Officer.
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Old Sep 25, 04, 10:43 am   #8
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzman
If you are physically disabled, and require physical care which is not provided by FAs (help to bathroom, help eating, etc, if required) and they do not accommodate your attendant at no charge, you may have a claim under ACA that you have not been provided "equal access to a public accommodation".

Call the airline you're interested in flying and ask for their Air Carrier Act Compliance Officer.
Jazzman, you are a doll. That's exactly what she requires. She is inconsistently incontinent, and because she is so unstable, she requires help to get to and from the bathroom. She's afraid to lock the bathroom door, and so I have to help her to the bathroom and stand there while she goes.

She also requires epilepsy medication, so if her flight was diverted or delayed, she could end up with life-threatening seizures. Since's she's retarded, she cannot self-medicate.

Incidentally, she sounds like this dribbling, zoned-out pathetic mess. Not so. She is socially well trained, and (other than the fact that no one normal looks that innocent) looks pretty normal. But she clearly cannot fly alone.

Thanks again,
Rita
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Old Sep 25, 04, 4:05 pm   #9
 
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Your answer is in the Air Carrier Act, 14 CFR 382

Here is the law as it pertains to domestic flights in the United States. This is from the Air Carrier Act, 14 CFR 382 § 382.35:

Quote:
§ 382.35 Attendants.

(a) Except as provided in this section, a carrier shall not require that a qualified individual with a disability travel with an attendant as a condition of being provided air transportation. A concern on the part of carrier personnel that a individual with a disability may need to use inaccessible lavatory facilities or may otherwise need extensive special assistance for personal needs which carrier personnel are not obligated to provide is not a basis on which the carrier may require an attendant.

(b) A carrier may require that a qualified individual with a disability meeting any of the following criteria travel with an attendant as a condition of being provided air transportation, if the carrier determines that an attendant is essential for safety:

(1) A person traveling in a stretcher or incubator. The attendant for such a person must be capable of attending to the passenger’s in-flight medical needs;

(2) A person who, because of a mental disability, is unable to comprehend or respond appropriately to safety instructions from carrier personnel, including the safety briefing required by 14 CFR 121.571 (a) (3) and (a)(4) or 14 CFR 135.117(b);

(3) A person with a mobility impairment so severe that the person is unable to assist in his or her own evacuation of the aircraft;

(4) A person who has both severe hearing and severe vision impairments, if the person cannot establish some means of communication with carrier personnel, adequate to permit transmission of the safety briefing required by 14 CFR 121.571(a)(3) and (a)(4) or 14 CFR 135.117(b).

(c) If the carrier determines that a person meeting the criteria of paragraph (b)(2), (b)(3) or (b)(4) of this section must travel with an attendant, contrary to the individual’s self-assessment that he or she is capable of traveling independently, the carrier shall not charge for the transportation of the attendant.

(d) If, because there is not a seat available on a flight for an attendant whom the carrier has determined to be necessary, a person with a disability who has a confirmed reservation is unable to travel on the flight, the person with a disability shall be eligible for denied boarding compensation under 14 CFR part 250.

(e) For purposes of determining whether a seat is available for an attendant, the attendant shall be deemed to have checked in at the same time as the person with a disability.
I have to preface this with the fact that I am not a lawyer, but from what is stated here, it would appear that she can't travel alone, requires and attendant, and apprently from what the law states here, there should be no charge for the attendant. Since you're "working" on the flight that would only be fair.

Let me know how it works out.

By the way, if you are not successful in getting a resolution, you should ask to speak to the Complaint Resolution Officer (CRO) at the airline. They are required to resolve your problem within 60 days.

Keep us updated and let us know what happens.
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Old Sep 25, 04, 6:06 pm   #10
 
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It says the airline "may require" which causes me to wonder if there's a loophole here? What if the airline said, "we don't require an attendant" so the attendant who comes with her has to pay?
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Old Sep 25, 04, 6:34 pm   #11
 
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Due to the specific handicaps mentioned earlier ...

Due to the specific nature of the handicaps mentioned earlier (mental retardation, imbalance, occasional incontinence, etc.) I see it highly unlikely that any airline in their right mind would say such a person could fly on their own.

If they insisted that such a passenger fly alone or that payment would be required for the attendant, I'd be looking for another airline.
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Old Sep 25, 04, 6:58 pm   #12
 
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I've printed out the regulations and I'm going to be calling Northwest Airlines on Monday.

The only part I'm concerned about is that I'm accompanying her to my brother's for a vacation. But I'm not staying with her. So the question will be if Northwest is willing to provide me with a ticket, if they will also allow me to return to Boston while she's away (or make me pay for a return flight).

But I will keep you appraised of the developments as they play out.

Rita
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Old Sep 27, 04, 2:44 pm   #13
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DeafFlyer
It says the airline "may require" which causes me to wonder if there's a loophole here? What if the airline said, "we don't require an attendant" so the attendant who comes with her has to pay?
DeafFlyer, ding, ding, ding, you're the winner. That's exactly what Northwest Airlines told me. "We will not make a determination on whether a passenger needs an attendant or not... but we will not help with [administering medications, assisting to the bathroom]" So they're avoiding the Department of Transportation language which would provide for an attendant at no charge.

I wasn't able to get directly in touch with a compliance department, but had to deal with a customer service person who, although very helpful, was getting her information from others. Clearly you can't box someone in who isn't giving you the answer you want, if they aren't the final arbiter.

I put a call into the DOT to see if their compliance officers might have run into this again. Had to leave a message since there's not individual who answers the phone for that department. They'll call back, they say.

I suspect they'll just say that Northwest is free to take the position that they have (not making the determination at all). Unless I get a zealous government employee.

Rita
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Old Sep 27, 04, 5:14 pm   #14
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzman
Due to the specific nature of the handicaps mentioned earlier (mental retardation, imbalance, occasional incontinence, etc.) I see it highly unlikely that any airline in their right mind would say such a person could fly on their own.

If they insisted that such a passenger fly alone or that payment would be required for the attendant, I'd be looking for another airline.
FWIW, I am completely unable to walk but on most flights would not need any extraordinary help from a FA (assistance raising/lowering a tray table would be about it most of time). When I was looking into the possibility of flying alone from SEA to SFO/LAX to meet up with Kremmen flying in from MEL, the CSA asked if I could deplane by myself in case of emergency. When I said no, she said that I would have to bring an aide (and pay for her ticket).

The problem is with the phrase "contrary to the individual’s self-assessment that he or she is capable of traveling independently" -- I can't in good conscience claim that I can travel independently if one of the criteria is to be able to exit by myself.

Also, iirc, the airline has the option of using a deadheading employee as the aide. This means that in my case, I would need to show up at the airport with an aide who was prepared to travel but who was also prepared to stay behind and that I need to have flexible arrangements for what to do with my aide once we get where I'm going. In the OP's case, she'd have to be prepared to fly or not, which could be even more problematic on the homeward journey. And her sister would have to be okay with a stranger helping her.

Last edited by FlyingPenguin; Sep 27, 04 at 5:16 pm. Reason: typo
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Old Sep 27, 04, 6:58 pm   #15
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzman
Due to the specific nature of the handicaps mentioned earlier (mental retardation, imbalance, occasional incontinence, etc.) I see it highly unlikely that any airline in their right mind would say such a person could fly on their own.

If they insisted that such a passenger fly alone or that payment would be required for the attendant, I'd be looking for another airline.
Sometimes there is no choice but to fly that airline.
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