British Airways Complaint - Violation of U.S. Dept. of Justice Disability Rights Laws under the Air Carrier Access Act and Regulation (EC) No. 1107/2006 of th
LONDON, ENGLAND -- I am a disabled person and I have always flown with British Airways when travelling to Europe. Their service had been exemplary until this year.
Only two days into my holiday in Oxford, UK, I fell and broke my hip. The accident occurred on 21 July 2008 and I had to be hospitalized for 15 days to get my hip repaired and get me back in a condition to travel home.
My cousin who is also my care giver when I travel called British Airways immediately to transfer our return tickets as due to my hospitalization we would not be able to travel on our original return date of 24 July 2008.
She got a note from the doctors stateing that I was unable to travel and recommending a return date of 4 August 2008. She told them I was being released on 2 August 2008 and would need to return to the US by 4 August 2008 as I have several heart and diabetes medications and I would only have 48 hours worth of medication when released from the hospital. They refused to transfer the original ticket unless we could fly after 28 August 2008 (4 weeks later).
So now we are out of medicine, out of money and have no place to turn and since they would not honor our original tickets to return home in order to do so we had to purchase two new coach tickets $1,400 each. She purchased these tickets one week prior to the flight to be sure we had them for our return.
As I am disabled with a bad heart and diabetes, my care giver cousin always arranges for a wheelchair as I can no longer walk the long distances at the airport to get to the gates. She has done this for the past 4 years. She once again called and requested a wheelchair to take me to the plane but when we arrived at Heathrow, Terminal 4, we were told she would have to take the doctor's note into the airport and go to the ticket desk to get the wheelchair.
Meanwhile I am standing on the drop off zone right next to the construction going on. I have a four legged metal walker which they issued me on release at the hospital. I am 10 days post surgery on having my hip replaced and am in terrible pain but there is nowhere to sit and wait so I am standing next to the luggage cart our taxi driver had brought us when the driver has to leave and I am there waiting for her to get the wheelchair.
Inside the airport terminal she was having a problem getting assistance for me. My doctors had written a medical release so she not only had documentation as to the need but she had arranged for this service at the time of ticket purchase. still they would not bring a wheelchair unless she saw the British Airways ticket agent.
While she was going through this, an elderly priest that was also travelling with a handicapped person, saw me and asked if he walked along side me and held me up do I think I could walk into the terminal to try to get help. It was a very slow, very long and extremely painful walk but as I had been standing in the parking area for a lengthy period of time I agreed and we walked slowly together into the terminal.
When I arrived inside the terminal, the fellow that was following my cousin with the wheelchair trying to get approval from the ticket agent saw me and immediately put me in the chair. He took me to the ticket desk where my cousin was arguing about something with the ticket agent.
As we neared the ticket agent I finally could hear what was going on. The ticket agent was denying me access to the airplane even though I had a valid ticket and assigned seat. She insisted that I buy a Business Class ticket at an additional $6,000. I lost it and started crying. Both I and my cousin told her we did not have $6,000. We had already spent everything we had to pay for additional hotel nights and transportation while I was in the hospital. When she uttered her response "Well you better start calling your friends and family because your not getting on the plane without this upgrade." it was with so much venom that you would think I had done something to her just by existing.
After a half hour of begging her supervisor to come talk to us (which he/she never did) we used her credit card to purchase the ticket. Since they do not allow walkers or wheelchairs on the plane (only in the luggage compartment), I am now unable to walk or stand without assistance. They had told my cousin that she could not come to see me in Business Class "UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES". As she is my care giver, I was unable to leave my seat to do as the doctor's ordered and "mobilize" which meant I couldn't even go to the bathroom.
When we finally landed 8.5 hours later and everyone else had deplaned, she was allowed to come to my assistance to get off the plane and into a wheelchair waiting at the door of the plane at the airport (the wheelchairs do not fit in the aisles of the plane). Upon standing, urine started leaking out of me because my bladder was so full from not being able to go to the bathroom. My medications were out of wack as she was unable to visit me and help me get them from the overhead where they were stored.
I am now so completed humiliated and ill that when my daughter met us at the airport she cried. It wasn't until I got into my home with the assistance of my daughter and husband and told them the entire story that they became angry at my treatment at the hands of British Airways and their representatives.
Because of this, my daughter did some research online and found out that British Airways has violated the law under the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Disability Rights Laws under the Air Carrier Access Act of the U.S. Department of Transportation, 14 CFR Part 382, Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel, Subpart C, Section 382.31 and Section 382.37 as well as Regulation (EC) No. 1107/2006 of the European Parliament and the Council of 5 July 2006 concerning the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air, Article 3 and Annex II, paragraphs 4-6.
So she wrote a letter to British Airways customer service (you can't call them as they do not allow you to talk to any of their customer service representatives)
and they responded with a refund of the $1,400 as they agree they should have transferred the ticket but they would not refund the additional $6,000 they charged for making me sit in Business Class as I had sat in the seat.
I call this a hostage situation. My life depended on my returning home to my doctors and getting my medications. They held me at the airport until I tallied up with another $6,000 even though I had a valid ticket to fly coach and my care giver had our seats assigned next to each other so she could assist me on the flight home.
Considering they forced me to purchase a total of three sets of tickets to fly home when the original should have been sufficient, I feel they owe me a refund on the additional $6,000 whether or not I rode in the seat as it was not my choice to do so.
All I can say is don't fly British Airways. Any company that has to sequester their "customer service" so as not to allow the customer to have their say is telling you that as a customer you are not important enough to be heard.