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Requesting Special Assistance - Your Feedback Requested

Requesting Special Assistance - Your Feedback Requested

Old Oct 13, 22, 12:47 pm
  #1  
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Lightbulb Requesting Special Assistance - Your Feedback Requested

Hi all

I am working in a medium sized carrier who are redesigning their special assistance request flows. I have done quite a lot of reading through these forums for pain points and the like and have taken down some recommendations, but I would like to hear more about where existing offerings from other airlines excel or fail you/your companion(s) as you travel. Whether that is transporting a wheelchair or other medical device, or you're travelling with a companion who may lie on the autism spectrum, for example, I would love to hear your thoughts on what you would like the airline to do, from ease of booking the request to the flight itself.

In terms of the airports themselves, that is much less under our control, so we are looking to improve the booking and flight journeys as much as possible.

There are certain requests that will always need a manual review, but for what you would consider a "standard" request, what options would you like to see on the site? And what would you like to know or be told before/during/after booking?

We have a lot of material already so have most of the journeys mapped, but I am more than open to amending items that could help alleviate stress or other inconveniences, or just generally improve your trip.

Thank you for your help!
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Old Oct 14, 22, 2:00 pm
  #2  
 
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Often the first difficulty is actually finding the special assistance number on the airline website, it is always there but not always obvious.

Then there often appears to be differences in what details are required to be provided by the service line, airport staff and aircrew,
See recent threads about travelling with Segway and battery powered medical equipment

A greater degree of consistency across airlines and airports would be helpful
Obviously this is difficult for a single carrier to achieve - attempt to be better than the others but not unnecessarily different
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Old Oct 17, 22, 7:23 am
  #3  
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Thanks, Mymsman

Yeah, I'd read the segway one prior to posting this thread. One tricky elemen t of that is when policies change (and they do often) - realistically, it's tough for every person to keep on top of those changes.

Our aim here is to stop you from having to call in the first place unless the assistance required or the situation is unique, but if you prefer to call of course you could do that.

Most airlines that I can see without needing a booking ref have a very simple or manual form, but perhaps some members here have booked assistance through a carrier that requires a booking reference e.g. Virgin and then assistance is requested through the Manage Booking/Trip equivalent and could provide some feedback as to what was good/bad?
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Old Oct 17, 22, 7:33 am
  #4  
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With AA, I like that I can choose my wheelchair assistance through the app and can specify levels of need. And then I can see what is requested on my reservation without wondering if it went through.

I understand that it can be hard for the airline to control what actually happens at the airport, particularly at certain airports where the airport controls assistance rather than the airline, but I wish there was an easy to access day of travel number I could contact for issues, because when I'm stuck on a jetbridge waiting for a wheelchair to come, it's just not possible for me to go up the jetbridge myself and find assistance.

In advance one thing that would be helpful is instructions like "At LGA terminal B drop off at door D to get wheelchair assistance or at CDG go to any check in counter." Specific instructions about the differences in assistance per airport could ease some of the pre-travel anxiety and make day of travel easier.
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Old Oct 17, 22, 8:18 am
  #5  
 
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For me, the one thing that would stand out, is keeping travel assistants (spouse in my case) seated with me. Airlines won’t guarantee this. It’s always a worry because I need some very personal help on a flight. If they move her elsewhere there will be a huge problem!
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Old Oct 17, 22, 10:40 am
  #6  
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Thank,s DeafFlyer.

Do you normally register them as a companion or would they be booked as a standard guest?
Just curious so I can add relevant rules.

When you say move, is this when you check in and you're assigned separate seats (e.g. Ryanair), or is it in the event of a disruption e.g. flight cancelled and you were put on a replacement flight and you aren't kept together?
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Old Oct 18, 22, 12:00 pm
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Originally Posted by DeafFlyer View Post
For me, the one thing that would stand out, is keeping travel assistants (spouse in my case) seated with me. Airlines wont guarantee this. Its always a worry because I need some very personal help on a flight. If they move her elsewhere there will be a huge problem!
This is not a problem that I have encountered, even on Ryanair who are the only airline that I have encountered that load wheelchair passengers through the rear door
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Old Oct 18, 22, 12:17 pm
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Sometimes when a flight is booked indirectly as part of a package holiday you don't have access to the flight booking details and cant register accessibility details directly so need to go via call centre, I don't trust holiday companies to pass details onto airlines!
I think Easy jet was an example of this.
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Old Oct 19, 22, 8:20 am
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Wink

Originally Posted by Jerry5566 View Post
Thank,s DeafFlyer.

Do you normally register them as a companion or would they be booked as a standard guest?
Just curious so I can add relevant rules.

When you say move, is this when you check in and you're assigned separate seats (e.g. Ryanair), or is it in the event of a disruption e.g. flight cancelled and you were put on a replacement flight and you aren't kept together?
I always tell the disability desk or whoever handles these things that I must have my companion seated with me. However, there are no guarantees. Just this summer, Lufthansa upgraded me, without my knowledge to Business class (upgraded my wife too) but put us in aisle seats. The aisle seats are staggered, so there was no way to alert her when I needed her. She did fall asleep in those comfy seats for a while. That was a bit scary for because she sleeps deep and it is hard to wake her. It worked out, but it was not easy for me. I realize that was Ann 8 hour international but it did happen to me. I may be the first person to complain about a nice upgrade like that though.
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Old Oct 20, 22, 7:09 am
  #10  
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Originally Posted by wrp96 View Post
With AA, I like that I can choose my wheelchair assistance through the app and can specify levels of need. And then I can see what is requested on my reservation without wondering if it went through.

I understand that it can be hard for the airline to control what actually happens at the airport, particularly at certain airports where the airport controls assistance rather than the airline, but I wish there was an easy to access day of travel number I could contact for issues, because when I'm stuck on a jetbridge waiting for a wheelchair to come, it's just not possible for me to go up the jetbridge myself and find assistance.

In advance one thing that would be helpful is instructions like "At LGA terminal B drop off at door D to get wheelchair assistance or at CDG go to any check in counter." Specific instructions about the differences in assistance per airport could ease some of the pre-travel anxiety and make day of travel easier.

Yes, that is part of our plan also - that you can see confirmation of the assistance request (and the request status e.g. approved, pending) when you navigate to Manage Booking as you say.

I will look into the airport-specific instructions. My worry there would be keeping that data up to date - we'd be reliant on the airport telling us when things have changed and if they haven't informed us and it has changed, then potentially we are mis-directing you which would lead to frustration, especially if time was of the essence and the flight time was rapidly approaching.

I will also check into the jetbridge situation - we use a third party to arrange the wheelchairs themselves so potentially they have a number you could call for on the day issues.

Thanks for your feedback. Much appreciated.
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Last edited by Jerry5566; Oct 20, 22 at 7:23 am
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Old Oct 20, 22, 7:22 am
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Originally Posted by mymsman View Post
Sometimes when a flight is booked indirectly as part of a package holiday you don't have access to the flight booking details and cant register accessibility details directly so need to go via call centre, I don't trust holiday companies to pass details onto airlines!
I think Easy jet was an example of this.
It's similar with our airline. It also depends on the third party (holiday company) and how they integrate with some of the booking systems (that are used globally). Often, requests do come through, but for something as critical as this, I would do exactly as you do, and call to ensure the requirement has been captured properly. We always suggest the same when a customer books e.g. 1 flight with us and 1 with our partner airline (but both bought through our bookin system), that they should confirm with the partner airline the request has been received there also. It's not ideal from a customer perspecitve but unfortuantely we lack the control to ensure it is booked on their system and that's why they'd have to call.

Originally Posted by DeafFlyer View Post
I always tell the disability desk or whoever handles these things that I must have my companion seated with me. However, there are no guarantees. Just this summer, Lufthansa upgraded me, without my knowledge to Business class (upgraded my wife too) but put us in aisle seats. The aisle seats are staggered, so there was no way to alert her when I needed her. She did fall asleep in those comfy seats for a while. That was a bit scary for because she sleeps deep and it is hard to wake her. It worked out, but it was not easy for me. I realize that was Ann 8 hour international but it did happen to me. I may be the first person to complain about a nice upgrade like that though.
Companions or e.g. families have SSR codes assigned where passengers must be seated together e.g. so a child isn't left without at least one parent/guardian beside them. For companions outside of families, they are typically assigned as needing to remain with the lead passenger due to the lead passenger having a particular SSR code on their profile e.g. BLIND. If an SSR code is not assigned, then that passenger I think would be treated as not needing to be seated with their companion e.g. in the event the aircraft was changed, and the passengers had to be moved e.g. seat specification changed or plane was downsized etc.

I would say it's unusual to be upgraded and separated unless the flight was disrupted - normally they would upgrade individuals if the seats weren't together but depends on the circumstances, really.

I'll look into having a code where the passenger can specify "I must be seated with my companion" where no existing companion-related SSR code would be suitable. We have a notes section but a code would be better as it would be front and centre when reassigning seats, rather than relying on someone having to check notes when they are 99% empty. Also, were trying to automate situations like this so again, notes would be less useful than a code.

Thanks for your feedback!

Originally Posted by DeafFlyer View Post
I always tell the disability desk or whoever handles these things that I must have my companion seated with me. However, there are no guarantees. Just this summer, Lufthansa upgraded me, without my knowledge to Business class (upgraded my wife too) but put us in aisle seats. The aisle seats are staggered, so there was no way to alert her when I needed her. She did fall asleep in those comfy seats for a while. That was a bit scary for because she sleeps deep and it is hard to wake her. It worked out, but it was not easy for me. I realize that was Ann 8 hour international but it did happen to me. I may be the first person to complain about a nice upgrade like that though.
Hey DeafFlyer. By way of an udpate, this should be possible - i.e. the ability to mark a passenger with a custom (i.e. non IATA) SSR code that would mean they and their companion must be seated together. This would actually form part of a related project I'm working on, so fits in there nicely. Thank you very much for the suggestion.

Last edited by Ocn Vw 1K; Oct 29, 22 at 1:16 pm Reason: Combine consecutive posts of same member to ease reading.
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Old Oct 23, 22, 12:33 pm
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Originally Posted by Jerry5566 View Post
I am working in a medium sized carrier who are redesigning their special assistance request flows. I have done quite a lot of reading through these forums for pain points and the like and have taken down some recommendations, but I would like to hear more about where existing offerings from other airlines excel or fail you/your companion(s) as you travel. Whether that is transporting a wheelchair or other medical device, or you're travelling with a companion who may lie on the autism spectrum, for example, I would love to hear your thoughts on what you would like the airline to do, from ease of booking the request to the flight itself.
...
There are certain requests that will always need a manual review, but for what you would consider a "standard" request, what options would you like to see on the site? And what would you like to know or be told before/during/after booking?

We have a lot of material already so have most of the journeys mapped, but I am more than open to amending items that could help alleviate stress or other inconveniences, or just generally improve your trip.
What I'd like is for airlines to understand more about the range of disabilities, and how the restricted environment of air travel moves an "in certain circumstances" medical condition to a "real disability needing special accommodation".

Most airlines have eliminated medical meals, if they ever had them. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder for which there is no cure, only a treatment, and that treatment is a strict gluten-free diet. Most airlines, when they offer meals, include lifestyle meals, such as vegetarian, or religious meals, such as Kosher, but very rarely offer gluten-free or low sodium meals - i.e. medically necessary diet modifications. Within the U.S. celiac disease is considered a disability under provisions of the ADA (yeah, I know it doesn't apply to airlines), and one of the criteria is where a meal is included for other participants, i.e. other passengers, but there is no comparable meal available for the person(s) with celiac. We can not rely on being able to purchase food in an airport, when we're starting out away from home, with no access to our own kitchen, it can be very difficult to purchase a meal outside the airport and then get it through security.

While they aren't perfect in this respect, I would say European carriers do a hell of a lot better than American ones with regard to gluten-free meals. It's time for American carriers to stop thinking of gluten-free as a fad and include it in their range of disability accommodations.
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Old Oct 25, 22, 6:15 am
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Originally Posted by CDTraveler View Post
What I'd like is for airlines to understand more about the range of disabilities, and how the restricted environment of air travel moves an "in certain circumstances" medical condition to a "real disability needing special accommodation".

Most airlines have eliminated medical meals, if they ever had them. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder for which there is no cure, only a treatment, and that treatment is a strict gluten-free diet. Most airlines, when they offer meals, include lifestyle meals, such as vegetarian, or religious meals, such as Kosher, but very rarely offer gluten-free or low sodium meals - i.e. medically necessary diet modifications. Within the U.S. celiac disease is considered a disability under provisions of the ADA (yeah, I know it doesn't apply to airlines), and one of the criteria is where a meal is included for other participants, i.e. other passengers, but there is no comparable meal available for the person(s) with celiac. We can not rely on being able to purchase food in an airport, when we're starting out away from home, with no access to our own kitchen, it can be very difficult to purchase a meal outside the airport and then get it through security.

While they aren't perfect in this respect, I would say European carriers do a hell of a lot better than American ones with regard to gluten-free meals. It's time for American carriers to stop thinking of gluten-free as a fad and include it in their range of disability accommodations.
We offer both gluten free and low sodium and also "bland meal" which I got a kick out of but I imagine there are medical reasons for offering that. On another note, I've never had a problem bringing food through security and often do including a knife and fork, but perhaps depends on the airport.
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Old Oct 25, 22, 8:13 am
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When I was recovering from a fractured foot, being able to add wheelchair access through the website was helpful, although it didn't give me the option to specify how much assistance I needed. With both that and flying post-knee surgery, it would've been helpful to be able to specify that having extra legroom or a way to prop up my leg would've been nice. I was lucky when flying after my fractured foot and on the longest flight, had the row to myself.

I'm allergic to all nuts, and in order to reserve a nut-free meal, I typically have to call. I also get the, "cross contamination," or, "we can't guarantee there won't be nuts." When I request a nut-free meal, if a flight is canceled or I'm switched to a different flight for some reason, I've found it doesn't carry to the new flight, and there may or may not be time to request a special meal. I had that experience on LHR-JFK, and ended up having an FA who was creative in order to assemble a meal I could eat, which I appreciated.

Also, on pre-packaged snacks, labels that are well-marked with allergens, or a dedicated option for nut allergies.
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Old Oct 25, 22, 8:20 am
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Originally Posted by Jerry5566 View Post
We offer both gluten free and low sodium and also "bland meal" which I got a kick out of but I imagine there are medical reasons for offering that. On another note, I've never had a problem bringing food through security and often do including a knife and fork, but perhaps depends on the airport.
Lacto-free should also be an option and not mutually exclusive with Gluten free, I have children and their partners who are lactose intolerant, gluten intolerant, and one who is both.

Part of the problem is that if staying in a strange city/country with no fridge and with a flight at an unsociable hour you can't always rely on being able to purchase/prepare food ahead of travel. The 100ml fluid limits also restricts foods that might be considered too liquid.

Budget airlines have an even more restrictive choice of food available for purchase on board
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