Disability assistance - not good enough

Old Dec 29, 2023, 5:45 am
  #1  
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Disability assistance - not good enough

My mum is 87. She is very active - she plays bowls competitively, usually about 3 times a week, for the county. She walks the dog for about 2 hours a day. She was dancing for hours and hours when we went out recently. But on this trip she was due to travel on her own, through a foreign airport, so I booked assistance. The service I chose was the one where it clearly stated that someone would be sent to walk with her to the gate, help her onto the plane, and no wheelchair. She was adamant that she didn't want a wheelchair, she is a very proud lady, she recovered from having a broken leg which put her in a wheelchair for a few months, and she said she would rather not have assistance than have to sit in a wheelchair again. I completely get this, like many older people she needed a little help but didn't want to be treated as completely helpless.

So we arrive at check-in (at PUJ Punta Cana), and a wheelchair is produced. I stressed that she doesn't want the wheelchair, and the staff said that the assistance was provided by a third-party company and it was a wheelchair or nothing. I stressed that she was an older lady with her dignity, completely able to walk, and surely the wheelchair person could walk with her without the chair, but no, this was "impossible". The check-in manager was called, he was actually quite rude, just barked "wheelchair or nothing" and walked off. No word of apology, zero empathy. I asked the young man with the wheelchair if he could just fold it up and walk with her, but he point blank refused. All of this was in Spanish, absolutely no room for misunderstandings.

So eventually mum took the wheelchair, was wheeled through departures and into the lounge, then got up and walked around, she said she felt that everyone was staring at her like she was a fraud. Similarly she was wheeled from the lounge to the plane, down the jetbridge where everyone was lining up, lots more staring she said. She said she felt totally embarrassed.

I've complained to CS, I know I'll get the answer that it's not BA's fault and a few copied and pasted platitudes, maybe a few Avios. My point is that when you watch BA's safety video or look at their adverts on TikTok you could be fooled into thinking that equality and recognising diversity is something that is very very important to BA. But when it comes to the reality of providing assistance to passengers with extra needs, the reality in my experience is simply not good enough. I would add that when mum broke her leg and was in a wheelchair a year ago, the same BA managed to leave her for about 2 hours in a corridor in Miami.
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Old Dec 29, 2023, 5:56 am
  #2  
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Airlines do not provide special assistance, both EU and UK law require airports to provide that assistance. Airlines have no control over the assistance provided.

Im not sure which assistance was booked, it sounds like your mother did not need special assistance but a meet and greet service.
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Old Dec 29, 2023, 6:03 am
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Originally Posted by Tobias-UK
Airlines do not provide special assistance, both EU and UK law require airports to provide that assistance. Airlines have no control over the assistance provided.

Im not sure which assistance was booked, it sounds like your mother did not need special assistance but a meet and greet service.
If you book assistance there are various options available. The last one offered clearly states that a person will walk with you to and from the aircraft, the cabin crew will help you put you bag in the overhead locker if required, no wheelchair will be provided. If BA doesn't provide this service, it shouldn't be offered. And I think I know my mother well enough to know whether or not she needs assistance, so let's not bother to discuss that point.

The email I received from BA after booking assistance said:

Our service for you includes:
  • An escort to guide you through the Terminal, from when you check in through to the aircraft door, if you are travelling on your own.
  • The option to board the aircraft before other passengers.
  • Help from our cabin crew to familiarise you with your surroundings and to stow your hand baggage.
  • An individual safety briefing before the flight departs if needed.
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Old Dec 29, 2023, 6:06 am
  #4  
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It's not unusual for blind travellers, with full mobility, to be offered a wheelchair on a "take it or leave it" basis. It's not ideal, but some airports effectively have one service provision rather than anything tailored.
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Old Dec 29, 2023, 6:06 am
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Originally Posted by JessicaB
If you book assistance there are various options available. The last one offered clearly states that a person will walk with you to and from the aircraft, the cabin crew will help you put you bag in the overhead locker if required, no wheelchair will be provided. If BA doesn't provide this service, it shouldn't be offered. And I think I know my mother well enough to know whether or not she needs assistance, so let's not bother to discuss that point.

The email I received from BA after booking assistance said:

Our service for you includes:
  • An escort to guide you through the Terminal, from when you check in through to the aircraft door, if you are travelling on your own.
  • The option to board the aircraft before other passengers.
  • Help from our cabin crew to familiarise you with your surroundings and to stow your hand baggage.
  • An individual safety briefing before the flight departs if needed.
I do sympathise with the overall point, but I am not sure how you interpret the first bullet point as categorically excluding a wheelchair? I read this as being exactly that- a wheelchair escort.
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Old Dec 29, 2023, 6:24 am
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Originally Posted by Tobias-UK
Im not sure which assistance was booked, it sounds like your mother did not need special assistance but a meet and greet service.
Disagree on that point. Take my mum for instance - long distances, particularly with luggage are hard but wandering around a lounge is not a problem. There’s also the issue that her condition has peaks and troughs, one day she might be perfectly able to walk to an A Gate, another day it might be a C Gate and she’d have no chance. We’ve faced that type of judgement plenty of times and it’s really not pleasant when there isn’t really another option.
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Old Dec 29, 2023, 6:31 am
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Originally Posted by JessicaB
If you book assistance there are various options available. The last one offered clearly states that a person will walk with you to and from the aircraft, the cabin crew will help you put you bag in the overhead locker if required, no wheelchair will be provided. If BA doesn't provide this service, it shouldn't be offered. And I think I know my mother well enough to know whether or not she needs assistance, so let's not bother to discuss that point.

The email I received from BA after booking assistance said:

Our service for you includes:
  • An escort to guide you through the Terminal, from when you check in through to the aircraft door, if you are travelling on your own.
  • The option to board the aircraft before other passengers.
  • Help from our cabin crew to familiarise you with your surroundings and to stow your hand baggage.
  • An individual safety briefing before the flight departs if needed.
All airlines are required by law to facilitate booking of special assistance for those with a disability or reduced mobility. The same law prevents airlines from providing the service directly, the airport is legally mandated to provide the assistance. An airline’s job is simply to facilitate the booking of assistance on behalf of the passenger.
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Old Dec 29, 2023, 6:45 am
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Originally Posted by sigma421
Disagree on that point. Take my mum for instance - long distances, particularly with luggage are hard but wandering around a lounge is not a problem. There’s also the issue that her condition has peaks and troughs, one day she might be perfectly able to walk to an A Gate, another day it might be a C Gate and she’d have no chance. We’ve faced that type of judgement plenty of times and it’s really not pleasant when there isn’t really another option.
No judgement on my part. You make a valid point regarding distances, one faced many, many times by my father, but this does not appear to be an issue for the OP:

Originally Posted by JessicaB
My mum is 87. She is very active - she plays bowls competitively, usually about 3 times a week, for the county. She walks the dog for about 2 hours a day. She was dancing for hours and hours when we went out recently. But on this trip she was due to travel on her own, through a foreign airport, so I booked assistance…
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Old Dec 29, 2023, 6:47 am
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Originally Posted by South London Bon Viveur
I do sympathise with the overall point, but I am not sure how you interpret the first bullet point as categorically excluding a wheelchair? I read this as being exactly that- a wheelchair escort.
I have never been to an airport anywhere in the globe where assistance has not involved the wheelchair. And what is wrong with the wheelchair? Just sit down, relax and be taken to where you need to be. Simples!
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Old Dec 29, 2023, 6:48 am
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Originally Posted by sigma421
Disagree on that point. Take my mum for instance - long distances, particularly with luggage are hard but wandering around a lounge is not a problem. There’s also the issue that her condition has peaks and troughs, one day she might be perfectly able to walk to an A Gate, another day it might be a C Gate and she’d have no chance. We’ve faced that type of judgement plenty of times and it’s really not pleasant when there isn’t really another option.
That’s not a judgement, the OP specifically stated that they did not want a wheelchair, which is not a service usually provided, unless a particular airport provides that.
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Old Dec 29, 2023, 6:53 am
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Originally Posted by JessicaB
If you book assistance there are various options available. The last one offered clearly states that a person will walk with you to and from the aircraft, the cabin crew will help you put you bag in the overhead locker if required, no wheelchair will be provided. If BA doesn't provide this service, it shouldn't be offered. And I think I know my mother well enough to know whether or not she needs assistance, so let's not bother to discuss that point.

The email I received from BA after booking assistance said:

Our service for you includes:
  • An escort to guide you through the Terminal, from when you check in through to the aircraft door, if you are travelling on your own.
  • The option to board the aircraft before other passengers.
  • Help from our cabin crew to familiarise you with your surroundings and to stow your hand baggage.
  • An individual safety briefing before the flight departs if needed.
What was the exact assistance you requested when you contacted BA before travel? Also, what was the assistance code that appeared on the boarding pass? This may help identify the requirement.
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Old Dec 29, 2023, 7:45 am
  #12  
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Originally Posted by Tobias-UK
Airlines do not provide special assistance, both EU and UK law require airports to provide that assistance
Bearing in mind the airport in this instance is in the Dominican Republic, do these provisions in law still apply ?
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Old Dec 29, 2023, 7:49 am
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OP, what you experienced is standardization of service/training, They simply can't or won't provide specialized service. They train staff and provide one service that will cover as many situations as possible to keep costs as low as they can. Some call it efficiency and some call it cookie-cutter. It's better than nothing, I suppose.

Additionally, utilizing a wheelchair minimizes the chance of injury/falling and also helps protect the assistant from liability. If your mom were to fall during the escorted walk...well, you can imagine the issues this presents for both parties and the potential lawsuit that follows. You know your mom's capabilities but the airport/airlines don't.

As far as the embarrassment goes, a bruised ego is better than a bruised bone!

Hopefully, you will both have fun with that story after the fact: "Remember the time all the lounge guests thought you were a fraud?" (laughter ensues!)

Best,
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Old Dec 29, 2023, 7:59 am
  #14  
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Originally Posted by Oxon Flyer
Bearing in mind the airport in this instance is in the Dominican Republic, do these provisions in law still apply ?
Oops, for some reason I had Spain in my mind. I’m not familiar with the legal nuances of Dominican Republic disability or equality law, but the onus is still on the airline to arrange special assistance on behalf of its passengers with reduced mobility or disability when travelling to the UK.
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Old Dec 29, 2023, 8:02 am
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Originally Posted by Tobias-UK
No judgement on my part. You make a valid point regarding distances, one faced many, many times by my father, but this does not appear to be an issue for the OP:
On a re-read you are entirely right! My apologies for skim-reading. it can be a sensitive subject.
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