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Mother's frustration with United while traveling with disabled child

Mother's frustration with United while traveling with disabled child

Old Jan 1, 15, 6:17 am
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Mother's frustration with United while traveling with disabled child

I just saw this item on one of the news sites that I frequent; I didn't see a thread about it on the UA forum.
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United With Ivy

On Tuesday December 30th, my family boarded a flight from Punta Cana, Dominican Republic bound for Newark, NJ. The flight # was 1515 and we were scheduled to take off at 1:55pm. I was traveling with 16 members of both my immediate and extended family including my own children, ages 11, 8, 6 and 3. My 3 year old, Ivy, is a stroke survivor and has very significant challenges including Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy.

There were 4 flight attendants on our flight and 3 had walked by us several times without comment. The 4th, however, indicated an issue the moment she stopped in front of our row. She looked at me with my daughter on my lap and immediately said that she needed to be placed in her seat. I informed the woman that Ivy has special needs and is unable to sit independently. She asked for a boarding pass and whether we had purchased a ticket for her. We said that we did have a ticket for her but again, she is unable to sit. We have flown on United several times since she had turned 2 and she had always been on my lap.

This flight attendant returned to her co-workers and began to argue with them. She returned to argue with us. She kept quoting FAA regulations. She brought up members of the staff from the airport, including several baggage handlers who spoke very limited English, to lecture us about seating despite the fact that we were clearly Americans and spoke little to no Spanish. She insisted on creating a scene. The remaining 3 flight attendants pleaded our case, in fact one was in tears, but this one attendant dug her heels in and wouldn’t budge. The other 3 attendants scoured the Flight Attendants’ Handbook and found a clause that stated that if a passenger was unable to sit independently they were allowed to sit on a lap. She had the opportunity to make a justifiable exception and chose not to.

My husband pleaded with her, my other 3 children were sobbing, my niece was sobbing, other passengers were getting involved yet this woman still displayed zero compassion. The end result occurred when my husband finally approached the pilot and asked for help coming up with a solution that worked for everyone. The pilot’s compromise was that my daughter Ivy was placed in a seat and buckled in for take off and landing. She had to lay across my husband’s lap for this duration as she is unable to sit up. She was permitted to return to my lap for the other portion of the flight. My family was humiliated in front of a full flight of passengers. The flight ended up taking off almost an hour late.

As we deplaned, multiple passengers approached me and stated that they planned on contacting United about our horrific treatment at the hands of the crew member.

#unitedwithivy

http://kirsch71.tumblr.com/post/1067...nited-with-ivy
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Old Jan 1, 15, 7:11 am
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Safety would seem to dictate that someone who is unable to sit independently should be assisted in doing so.

Safety would also seem to dictate that someone, say in a stretcher during a medical transport, would be left where they are in a non-sitting position as well. My post-stroke grandmother travelled as such.

If it's about safety, then it's about safety, not special needs. Exactly how is it not safe for a child to be seated on a parent's lap -- presumably with one of the special lap belts -- being appropriately assisted to sit up?

Here's what makes me think it was just an FA having a bad day, even if the OP's assertion about the FAs attempting to help I've quoted above is not taken at face value. The six or so flights that my family and I have taken on LH with a young child, the FAs insist that the child be seated in a parent's lap with a lap belt even though we had paid for a seat, and the child was able to sit up on their own. So LH thinks it is safer to take off and land that way.

If it's about safety, then it's about safety, not special needs. By that argument, no children should be allowed on airplanes at all until they are able to sit quietly by themselves.

Last edited by l etoile; Jan 1, 15 at 8:46 am Reason: Edited to remove quote and response thereto
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Old Jan 1, 15, 7:37 am
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How is this a public relations disaster? The FA was right. The family should have contacted UA before the flight:

http://www.united.com/web/en-US/cont...s/default.aspx

The FAA discusses this issue here:

https://www.faa.gov/passengers/fly_children/

Does this child travel on someone's lap in a car?

Last edited by lost*in*cyberspace; Jan 1, 15 at 7:43 am
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Old Jan 1, 15, 7:41 am
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Originally Posted by jpezaris View Post
...... The six or so flights that my family and I have taken on LH with a young child, the FAs insist that the child be seated in a parent's lap with a lap belt even though we had paid for a seat, and the child was able to sit up on their own. So LH thinks it is safer to take off and land that way.
This thread is regarding UA, a U.S. carrier, not LH, which allows lap children to use one of those "special lap belts" which attach to an adult's seatbelt when flying in Europe. These are not allowed in the US.
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Old Jan 1, 15, 7:46 am
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Aren't passengers with special needs supposed to notify United 48 hours in advance? It seems that this could have worked out then.

FWIW, even two year old lap children scare the heck out of me. No matter how much you love your kids, you are not immune from the laws of physics, and if an accident or even severe turbulence happens, junior becomes a projectile. Older and heavier children are that much more at risk.
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Old Jan 1, 15, 7:49 am
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Originally Posted by lost*in*cyberspace View Post
The FAA discusses this issue here:

https://www.faa.gov/passengers/fly_children/
That's a really helpful link. It sounds as if the family neglected to file a petition for exemption before flying, as they were legally required to. It's sad when there's a well-documented process for doing exactly what they need to do, they don't comply, then act as if UA ruined their vacation.
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Old Jan 1, 15, 9:07 am
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As with electronic devices for years, carrier specific rules override FAA rules when convienent. I read in that link that UA recommends that the customer notify UA about special needs.

The FA is an idiot, let her hold the child for take off and landing and move on already. Someday she may need help somewhere and possibly assistance and hope someone goes outside the lines for her. Get normal people. Do the right thing.
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Old Jan 1, 15, 9:54 am
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I know employees are the face of most companies, but I don't think it is fair to blame a company for a stupid employee.

I guess if you fly all the time with a special needs child you might know to check this website and call the airline, but if it is the first time, you would never know to do this. It seems like the right thing for the FA to have done would have been to suggest that the mom call United ahead of time and explain the situation for future flights, and let it go on this flight.
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Old Jan 1, 15, 10:13 am
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I'm far from a UA apologist, and I have a child with medical issues myself, so I'm sensitive to issues around travel with special needs kids.

That said, from what I'm reading from the account, the mom was in the wrong here, except maybe as to the FA's attitude. She should have checked with UA and gotten it cleared.

One element that i didn't see addressed is that an unrestrained 3 year old who is unable to support themselves is a danger to other passengers in the event of an emergency or turbulence. No way mom could hold her in the event of an emergency landing.

UA is guilty of a lot, but I'm not feeling this one.

Greg
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Old Jan 1, 15, 10:33 am
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Originally Posted by greg99 View Post
I'm far from a UA apologist, and I have a child with medical issues myself, so I'm sensitive to issues around travel with special needs kids.

That said, from what I'm reading from the account, the mom was in the wrong here, except maybe as to the FA's attitude. She should have checked with UA and gotten it cleared.

One element that i didn't see addressed is that an unrestrained 3 year old who is unable to support themselves is a danger to other passengers in the event of an emergency or turbulence. No way mom could hold her in the event of an emergency landing.

UA is guilty of a lot, but I'm not feeling this one.

Greg
Not sure who was right or wrong but I tend to agree with your line of thinking.
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Old Jan 1, 15, 10:39 am
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Originally Posted by greg99 View Post
I'm far from a UA apologist, and I have a child with medical issues myself, so I'm sensitive to issues around travel with special needs kids.

That said, from what I'm reading from the account, the mom was in the wrong here, except maybe as to the FA's attitude. She should have checked with UA and gotten it cleared.

One element that i didn't see addressed is that an unrestrained 3 year old who is unable to support themselves is a danger to other passengers in the event of an emergency or turbulence. No way mom could hold her in the event of an emergency landing.

UA is guilty of a lot, but I'm not feeling this one.
I agree with you. It's tough to take a stand against a disabled child (I have a niece who has severe issues) but the reality is that there is a right way and a wrong way to deal with this.

UA requires 48 hour advance notice if someone severely disabled will be flying so that they can make the proper preparations. They also require that they check in an hour before the general public. Children over 2 must have their own seat and sit in their own seat. They can have a car seat or similar seat attached. But they cannot sit in someone else's lap for safety reasons.

By law, for example, when they transport the child to the airport in a car, the child must have their own car seat and cannot be held in someone's lap. So why is it an imposition to do the same on a plane during take-off and landing?
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Old Jan 1, 15, 11:18 am
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Just read this article and the woman was seated in business with her 11 YO child The seat they bought for the disabled child was in economy. With only the limited information from the article, seems if the 11 YO moved back to the economy seat, it would have solved the problem. Since mixed cabins were involved, I am sure there is alot more to this story.
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Old Jan 1, 15, 11:19 am
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Yes!

Originally Posted by ZZYZXROAD View Post
As with electronic devices for years, carrier specific rules override FAA rules when convienent. I read in that link that UA recommends that the customer notify UA about special needs.

The FA is an idiot, let her hold the child for take off and landing and move on already. Someday she may need help somewhere and possibly assistance and hope someone goes outside the lines for her. Get normal people. Do the right thing.
I'm glad there's at least one other sane person reading this thread. United had a chance to build goodwill and educate a passenger about their recommended procedures.

Instead, a hothead FA created a scene, humiliated a child and her family and then spawned a social media campaign to share the airline's insensitivity with the world. She threw away a chance to do the right thing.

Remember, the passenger says she'd flown a few times with her disabled daughter after she turned two. This would not be the first time United's inability to deliver consistent service or to follow a single standard became a customer service issue.

Once again, UA proves to the world that they haven't a clue what service means.

Last edited by embarcadero1; Jan 1, 15 at 11:31 am Reason: Clarity
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Old Jan 1, 15, 12:04 pm
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Mother's frustration with United while traveling with disabled child

She was trying to get X first class seats for the price of X-1 (plus an economy seat) under the guise of her special needs child. Quite despicable, IMHO (and then to take this to the media). UA shouldn't have to apologize for following the rules. If the FA was rude about anything it was probably in response to rudeness from an entitled passenger. UA can maybe apologize for that on behalf of the FA, but then the family should be banned from UA... JMHO.
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Old Jan 1, 15, 12:05 pm
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Originally Posted by embarcadero1 View Post
I'm glad there's at least one other sane person reading this thread. United had a chance to build goodwill and educate a passenger about their recommended procedures.

Instead, a hothead FA created a scene, humiliated a child and her family and then spawned a social media campaign to share the airline's insensitivity with the world. She threw away a chance to do the right thing.

Remember, the passenger says she'd flown a few times with her disabled daughter after she turned two. This would not be the first time United's inability to deliver consistent service or to follow a single standard became a customer service issue.

Once again, UA proves to the world that they haven't a clue what service means.
Sane meaning they agree with you?

I take all of these stories with a grain of salt; who knows what really happened? Do you think the mom told the story exactly as it happened? Doubtful. I'm sure this is a selective retelling with pertinent facts omitted.
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