The developmentally disabled face extra challenges when flying

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If everything had gone according to plan, Eileen Schofield wouldn’t have been lost after she landed at the airport in Baltimore recently.

But everything didn’t go as planned.

First, a US Airways representative refused to issue a gate pass to Hannah Newmark, a volunteer assigned to meet Schofield. So when Schofield landed at BWI, she wandered aimlessly around the terminal while Newmark tried to persuade the airline to give her a pass to get through TSA screening and escort her charge home.

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Schofield, 53, is developmentally disabled. She can’t read, write or use a phone. What happened to her sheds light on one of the least discussed air travel topics: the challenges facing passengers with developmental disabilities, and how airlines do — and sometimes don’t — accommodate them.

Charlyne Schofield, a retired federal government worker who lives in Charlotte, blames US Airways for losing her sister. For the past seven years, she’d flown Eileen from Charlotte to Baltimore on AirTran, which had always issued gate passes for her and for a volunteer on each end. But when she switched to US Airways, a representative in Baltimore told her that getting a gate pass wasn’t automatic.

“That’s what caused the problem,” Schofield says. “My sister can’t read the signs. She needs someone to meet her.”

Newmark, who works for L’Arche Greater Washington, D.C., an organization that aids the developmentally disabled, says that US Airways, which recently merged with American Airlines, was insensitive to the needs of its passenger. “I was shocked and appalled by the collective staff’s lack of understanding of the severity of the situation and help to remedy it,” she says. “I was told by multiple people that there was no chance that Eileen would get lost. But that’s exactly what happened.”

US Airways insists that it’s just following federal regulations. After Charlyne Schofield complained in writing and by phone, the airline sent her an e-mail saying that issuing a gate pass is “at the discretion of the airlines and TSA,” adding that “passengers who are incapable of taking care of themselves in case of an emergency will not be allowed to travel on their own.”

The airline added that anyone who because of a mental disability is unable to comprehend or respond appropriately to safety instructions from its crew must travel with an assistant, implying that her sister shouldn’t have been flying without an escort.

Finding Schofield at the airport wasn’t easy. Newmark called the son of a volunteer who works at BWI and has access to the arrival area. He spotted Schofield in a different terminal, waiting patiently for her escort, and delivered her to Newmark.

Joshua Freed, an airline spokesman, says that it “generally” grants security passes in cases such as Schofield’s. “However, the final decision rests with local employees, and sometimes various considerations will cause them to decline to issue a pass,” he noted.

“We’re taking a closer look at this case and are always working to improve the experience for our disabled passengers,” he said.

Accommodating the needs of developmentally disabled passengers seems to be a challenge for the domestic airline industry, even though the Air Carrier Access Act, which prohibits discrimination against air travelers with disabilities, covers mental impairments. The law defines an impairment as “any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.”

US Airways and American, for example, have a special disability assistance line. But though the US Airways Web site lists special procedures for a variety of disabilities, including mobility challenges and medical disabilities, it doesn’t have a section devoted to passengers with developmental needs. Some of the information can be found under “safety assistants,” and it’s almost word for word what US Airways sent to Charlyne Schofield after she complained.

Southwest Airlines, the other dominant carrier at BWI, has a more extensive list of services, but Schofield says that she’s too concerned with the airline’s open-seating policy to switch to Southwest. AirTran, her previous preferred carrier, merged with Southwest. On its site, the airline offers detailed instructions for caregivers of the developmentally disabled, including on priority boarding and special assistance. But, like US Airways, it notes, “If a customer requires personal or continuous assistance, he/she should travel with an attendant.”

A developmental disability isn’t always noticeable, which sometimes makes having an enforceable policy for passengers with special needs difficult. Passengers’ needs also sometimes conflict with an airline’s desire to make money.

Take what happened to Shannon Cherry on a flight from Philadelphia to Manchester, England, in 2011. Cherry, whose 6-year-old twin daughters have high-functioning autism, discovered that US Airways had separated the family in the onboard seating.

“We were shocked that an airline would separate a family with young children, regardless of disability,” says Cherry, who now lives in Walnut Creek, Calif. “What a bad situation for not only the family, but other passengers as well.”

Cherry asked US Airways to seat her family together but was told that she would have to pay extra for that. She contacted her U.S. senator at the time, Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), whose office intervened and persuaded US Airways to allow the Cherrys to sit together on the transatlantic flight without an additional charge. US Airways would not comment on Cherry’s case because it could not find her flight records.

For some passengers, even the most accommodating policies aren’t enough to make air travel possible. Faith McKinney’s 26-year-old daughter, Camille, is among them.

“I love my child, and I want her to see the world with me,” McKinney says. But her daughter’s disability is too severe. With a cognitive age of 6 to 12 months, Camille is unable to talk and can’t tolerate the stress of air travel. The enclosed space of an aircraft would simply be too much for her to handle. McKinney, a motivational speaker based in Indianapolis, also worries about how crew members and other passengers might react to Camille’s severe disabilities. “Most people haven’t been exposed to people with special needs, especially adults with special needs,” she says.

And that pretty much sums up the problem. Because their needs aren’t always immediately visible, passengers with developmental disabilities can be marginalized, if not ignored, even when the law prohibits it. It’s a problem that’s difficult to identify, let alone fix.

But it’s not unfixable. John Cook, the executive director of L’Arche Greater Washington, D.C., believes that airlines can do better. He says that the industry’s lack of policies regarding special-needs passengers sets a “corrosive pattern of small acts of institutional denigration and discrimination that consume the time and weary the souls of people with disabilities.”

And sometimes, he says, as in the case of Eileen Schofield, it can put them in danger.

Do airlines accommodate developmentally disabled passengers enough?

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127 thoughts on “The developmentally disabled face extra challenges when flying

  1. They should have some sort of cost effective solution that works, not a bunch of excuses. This shouldn’t be difficult to figure out. Some segments of the population have a more difficult time coping than the rest of us and it makes things easier for everyone if things are accommodated in some workable fashion.

    1. Airlines should simply follow the law, ACAA.
      The best Elliott can do is to help people understand what is due them.

  2. My suspicion is that most carriers simply are incapable of both training and supervising their numerous front line employees, all of which are dispersed widely geographically, with respect to nuances that affect relatively few passengers. What is most discouraging is receipt of indifferent correspondence from corporate headquarters, especially when it relates to an area in which most large corporations tend to be rather sensitive to (i.e., services for people with disabilities), and many of which have established specialized offices through which they attempt compliance.

    1. I work for an airline. It’s not so much the training and supervising that is the issue, but lack of empowerment and a “zero tolerance” “no exceptions” mentality that is pervasive in many industries and services that cause this. (I have stories about my children’s school that could fill up this page!)

      First off, had the OP come up to me or most of my colleagues, she would have gotten a gate pass. No question.

      I HAVE also denied gate passes in some cases as well. Occasionally we get school groups with over 100 kids on them. We get requests for gate passes from parents who want to go see their kids off. Factor in a couple of parents, siblings, some step parents and grandparents and suddenly we could have 300 additional people in the TSA line. (Would you want to be stuck behind them trying to make your flight?) It’s just not something the airport can handle. Fortunately most parents understand the situation when it’s explained, but a few end up irate about it. (It makes me wonder how they think their kids are going to handle the trip with just the chaperones and no parents…but that’s their problem.)

      I see more and more instances where someone in the “ivory tower” sees an exception being made and calls me out about it. Luckily, our local management team supports the front line and stands behind the decisions we make on the front line.

      1. I think the proper exercise of discretion is difficult, especially when the persons making the exercise could have to suffer the consequences of after-the-fact second-guessing. Nonetheless, one of the characteristics of a good employee, one that is properly suited for promotion, is the consistent and reasonable exercise of discretion. The use of “zero tolerance” programs indiscriminately undermines the proper use of discretion, and such programs should be restricted to areas where management has little or no confidence in its employees to exercise discretion. But in a transportation company, where are employees are geographically widespread, management must have such confidence (at least in its local management) for otherwise it will not be able to function.

        Nevertheless, even the best employees sometimes err when exercising discretion. Internally, a company may stand behind its employees . . . since no one is perfect second chances are almost always appropriate.except in the most egregious situations (and if need be, offer meaning re-training if it will actually help). But when responding to customers (and unless expensive litigation might result–in which the lawyers, not customer service, should respond), a company should not always stand behind its employees. It a mistake was made, the company should offer an apology in its name, not make any scapegoats, explain the action being taken to prevent re-occurrence, offer some type of gesture of goodwill if appropriate.

      2. But somehow before 9-11, the screeners were able to do their job when anyone could enter the terminal area. That is where your logic fails, and airline employees are just on a power trip.

        1. NoJets, BTW, you seem like a nice guy, and I it is great your management supports the front line staff (very rare these days), but the whole gate pass thing is just a power trip to me. The one time Southwest would not give me a gate pass to see off my wife and twins, I just bought a one way refundable ticket for later that day, saw them off, walked right back to the ticket counter and got a refund. I think the agent was kind of hinting me to do that. I have found asking very nicely for a gate pass and being friendly to the agent helps, I have only had one person say no

          1. Here’s another example of what can happen. Several years ago, a man came up and said it was his anniversary and he wanted to surprise his wife at the gate. Story seemed legit, he knew the flight number, confirmation number etc. Someone gave him a gate pass. Turned out it really wasn’t their anniversary and he wanted to catch his wife coming off the plane with the man she was having an affair with. He attacked the couple as they came off the jetbridge.

            The police and TSA came and grilled the person who issued the gate pass as to why they would do that. Stories like this stick in your mind and it’s easier to just say “no”.

            In today’s story, I’m assuming Eileen’s record was well documented with her needs. A quick check would have confirmed the need as legit.

  3. I am curious about this disclaimer.

    The airline added that anyone who because of a mental disability is
    unable to comprehend or respond appropriately to safety instructions
    from its crew must travel with an assistant, implying that her sister
    shouldn’t have been flying without an escort.

    What about people who speak a different language or a very young unaccompanied minors?

      1. The law does not require the passenger to understand preflight safety briefings.
        Read FAA AC 121-24C – Passenger Safety Information Briefing and Briefing Cards Document Information

    1. Read 14 CFR 382.29 – May a carrier require a passenger with a disability to travel with a safety assistant?

      1. The version I’m reading says that 382.29 is “reserved”. But 382.35 discusses attendants. A person with a disability is not required to travel with one, unless the airline determines it is a safety issue. Everything these days is a “safety issue”, including the specific example in 382.35(a) of using the toilet.

        382.35(b)2 says that if someone with a mental disability cannot comprehend the instructions, then it’s a safety issue.

        But 382.35(c) says that if the airline determines the person must have an attendant for safety reasons, which is what US and Southwest both said, then they have to fly that attendant at no additional charge.

        I really don’t think that the airlines really want to play the “safety card” too much, now that this has been brought to the public’s attention via this article.

        1. I thought part 382.35 is about waivers and releases 🙂
          Anyway as you already figured out, many passengers with disabilities look like they are getting screwed.
          That safety card is complete nonsense.
          Also the disabled pax can disagree with the airline, and the airline may have to provide an attendant for free 🙂
          I wish we can discuss in detail but the doucumentation is quite voluminous.
          Google tam-07-15-05 pdf
          That document prepared by the DOT is excellent.

          1. Evidently we have different editions, but the same general gist.

            What I’m hoping is that enough people will read this so that they can refer back to the laws allowing them to exercise their rights, and have the airlines respect if not their rights, respect the law.

            Off to exercise another of my First Amendment rights, so won’t be able to follow comments for a few hours. 🙂

          2. Or more precisely, the carrier may have to provide transportation for an attendant for free. The carrier does not have to provide an attendant for free. 14 C.F.R. § 382.29(c)(1).

            With a full flight, the carrier has a choice of bumping a confirmed passenger to make room for an attendant, and having to pay compensation to that passenger; or denying transportation to the disabled person, and having to pay compensation to the disabled passenger. Since the compensation payable to a bumped passenger can be negotiated, and the compensation payable to a disabled person denied transportation is an involuntary refund, it seems as though generally the less expensive choice for the carrier would be to bump a confirmed passenger.

          3. Do you remember the blind guy and his dog Doxy returning to Long Island from Philly on USAir. The FA kicked him and the dog out and the passengers revolted demanding the FA be kicked out. Really classy of USAir FAs 🙂

    2. I had the same question regarding foreign travelers…also I never read any indication that she couldn’t FOLLOW directions, just that she couldn’t read them or find her way on her own.

    3. All airlines have an unaccompanied minor provision, with a fee of its own. Why not treat this person as a UM?

        1. In reading the Act, I see that the airline may decide that if a person with a mental disability will not be able to follow safety rules, then they can allow an attendant to fly for free (much paraphrased from 382.35(c) of the Act).

          I see that the Act also requires airlines to block off seating for those with disabilities (382.38 4(b)1.

          So the OP’s sister could fly Southwest and they could reserve a seat for her, under these rules. Bet blocking off a seat and issuing a gate pass is a whole lot cheaper than letting an attendant fly for free.

          1. In Eileen Shoefields case, she proved she can fly by herself.
            What she could not do well was not get lost in a big place like an airport. Clearly this is a disability that the airline should have addressed. They had 2 options:
            (a) allow Charlyne and a volunteer to assist Eileen to and from the aircraft by providing both of them a gate pass; or
            (b) the airline do it themselves – provide a personal care assistant to accompany Eileen from Charlyne’s care at the check in counter and deliver her to the other volunteer at the arrival airport.

            My goodness, this decision of USAirways not to give a pass is so ridiculous. We are simply talking about pass to get to and from the gate. We are not talking of a free flight. Management in that airport have lost their mind, sorry.

          2. Agree whole-heartedly. See my response to your post on the applicable section of law on this topic.

            The airlines CANNOT say it’s not safe for Ms. Schofield to fly alone in one sentence and then deny an attendant to fly for FREE.

            So, US Airways and Southwest, which is it? If you’re going to cite safety, you’ve got to go all the way and fly an attendant – for safety reasons – for free and block off seats as needed. Or, you can be decent human beings and hand out the gate pass so someone can escort Ms. Schofield to and from her gate.

            Guess I answered my own question.

          3. Just a small FYI. In all the cases mentioned in this article (maybe except Faith McKinney’s 26-year-old daughter, Camille) the passengers with disability were boarded and allowed to fly.
            So there was no real issue of needing a service assistant to fly FREE with the pax. I guess the airline(s) is not that stupid yet.

            In the case of Eileen Schofield, she did not get the DEPLANING assistance she required because the airline refused to give her assistant a gate pass to meet her at the gate upon arrival.

            I think they may have violated this:
            §382.91 What assistance must carriers provide to passengers with a disability in moving within the terminal?
            (b) You must also provide or ensure the provision of assistance requested by or on behalf of a passenger with a disability, or offered by carrier or airport operator personnel and accepted by a passenger with a disability, in moving from the terminal entrance (or a vehicle drop-off point adjacent to the entrance) through the airport to the gate for a departing flight, or from the gate to the terminal entrance (or a vehicle pick-up point adjacent to the entrance after an arriving flight).

            (1) This requirement includes assistance in accessing key functional areas of the terminal, such as ticket counters and baggage claim.
            (d) As part of your obligation to provide or ensure the provision of assistance to passengers with disabilities in moving through the terminal (e.g., between the terminal entrance and the gate, between gate and aircraft, from gate to a baggage claim area), you must assist passengers who are unable to carry their luggage because of a disability with transporting their gate-checked or carry-on luggage. You may request the credible verbal assurance that a passenger cannot carry the luggage in question. If a passenger is unable to provide credible assurance, you may require the passenger to provide documentation as a condition of providing this service.

            In the case of the Shannon Cherry with 6-year-old twin daughters have high-functioning autism, the daughters were entitled to be seated beside their willing and paying service assistant (their Mom).
            In the twins’ case, I believe the below rule may have been violated.
            14 CFR SUBPART F – Seating Accommodations
            382.81 – For which passengers must carriers make seating accommodations?
            As a carrier, you must provide the following seating accommodations to the following passengers on request, if the passenger self-identifies to you as having a disability specified in this section and the type of seating accommodation in question exists on the particular aircraft. Once the passenger self-identifies to you, you must ensure that the information is recorded and properly transmitted to personnel responsible for providing the accommodation …
            (b) You must provide an adjoining seat for a person assisting a passenger with a disability in the following circumstances:
            (1) When a passenger with a disability is traveling with a personal care attendant who will be performing a function for the individual during the flight that airline personnel are not required to perform (e.g., assistance with eating);
            (2) When a passenger with a vision impairment is traveling with a reader/assistant who will be performing functions for the individual during the flight;
            (3) When a passenger with a hearing impairment is traveling with an interpreter who will be performing functions for the individual during the flight; or
            (4) When you require a passenger to travel with a safety assistant (see § 382.29).

          4. Unless it was completely undocumented in advance. I have seen nothing in regards to this in the story.

          5. She accompanied her sister all the way to the gate at departure, the problem was the airline did not want to give a gate pass for the volunteer to pick her sister upon arrival which resulted in the sister getting lost in the arrival airport.

            The airline CANNOT require documentation you are talking about. It is against the law …

            §382.25 May a carrier require a passenger with a disability to provide advance notice that he or she is traveling on a flight?

            As a carrier, you must not require a passenger with a disability to
            provide advance notice of the fact that he or she is traveling on a
            flight.

          6. That’s not what I am talking about.

            Without advance notification regarding this volunteer that was meeting the passenger, I can understand completely why a differently-named, non-relative might be denied a gate pass. There are also privacy laws that airline employees are limited by. In this case, I have no idea what actually happened. But if there was no information in the PNR regarding the pickup, then I can understand why it might have happened.

          7. Let’s say her PNR has no notifications.
            She checks in and her sister asks for a gate pass.
            Shouldn’t the agent be smart enough to ask who will pick her up at the other end? She could have made the notations on the RES.
            That would make it easier for the volunteers at BWI.
            But naah, that’s too easy.

          8. honestly, after doing this for 15 years, and having a very high IQ, i would not ask who will pick her up on the other end. and i am “smart enough”.

          9. I am just saying, if the airline wants notification, they got it during departure check in. Why make it hard to get a pass at the other end?

          10. Tony, I don’t disagree with you, per se, but you are making a lot of assumptions about the transaction. I’ll take it the other way. Shouldn’t the sister — who has the largest vested interest in making the travel and pickup easy — make sure that the volunteer’s name should be documented, as opposed to the presumably busy airport agent, who may have several customers clamoring for attention? As with most cases, there are a lot more unknowns that what is being discussed, and we make assumptions about what happened based on our own dispositions.

          11. Taking the side of the LW here. She said they have been doing this with other airlines before with no issues and that they always were able to get gate passes at both ends. Given that there is no specific instructions in the USAir website that requires her to notify the airline at booking about a need for a gate pass, and that she herself was able to check in her sis and take her to the gate on that same USair flight, then it was reasonable for her to assume that there should be no problem at the other end.

            Furthermore, some of my comments were made as a rebuttal to other comments that she failed to properly notify the airline. For me this accusation does not make any sense since the airline knew at check in that the sis is a DPNA – Disabled passenger needs assistance. Under the law, prior notification is not required since they did not request any special equipment from the airline.
            In other words those saying she needed prior notification are just wrong. She can simply present herself at check in and claim ACAA benefits.

          12. I’m only going to comment that I’m not sure who you are referring to. You are replying to me but I made no accusations at all. I also never said anything about “prior notification to check-in.”

          13. Untrue – the Medical Desk at USAir could have put the pass requirement in the record, which would have assured the compliance needed was met. It would have addressed the neccessity of the attendant meeting and assisting the passenger was required.

          14. She’s not a MEDA. She’s at most a DPNA. More like a MAAS. Please check your own airline policies.

          15. It is what happens when people attempt to follow rules blindly without reference to the purpose of their promulgation. Doing things correctly oftentimes requires thinking, a rare commodity at times.

          16. Interesting how this is written. The airlines cannot require notification, but the passenger can request special services. Ha ha ha 🙂

          17. And if the attendant had contacted USAir’s Medical Desk – this could have been pre-added to the record so this would not have happened. If you know this is an issue, go to the top to ensure it does not potentially become one – if Medical Desks put in passes must be issued, they are. End of story.

          18. But the LW said they have never had this problem before with other airlines. Why now?
            Also her disability is she could not read signs. That is similar to having Visual Impairments. And here is what USAir says for Visual Needs:

            Ticket counter service
            If you are checking in at the ticket counter, tell the agent that you have a visual impairment. (SHE DID)

            Drop-off/pick-up party assisting special needs passengers

            As a customer with special needs, you are permitted to have your
            drop-off/pick-up party accompany you to and from the gate in domestic airports. The drop-off/pick-up party should go to the ticket counter and request a pass to advance through security. (SHE DID)

    4. A different language is not a disability as every airport I’ve been in has pictures next to the words. I can find the baggage area, the exit area, etc. with no problem. A very young unaccompanied minor can be taught what signs to look for, however the adults responsible for that minor should never send them alone. Ever. If you cannot afford to take them then find alternate means.

      1. Unfortunately, in many cases the range of transportation options is not as wide as it once was. For many routes, there are no buses, trains, ocean liners, or other transportation besides air, and thus no practicable “alternate means.”

      2. Depends on the age of the child and how savvy they are. I can envision many cases where a child could travel just fine on their own but you’d still like the little extra benefit of knowing somebody was going to escort them to the gate on the one end and then to baggage claim on the other. Airports are pretty secure these days so it’s not like when anybody could just walk into an airport and roam around wherever they wanted.

      3. Really? Ever? My daughter traveled coast to coast (direct) several times from age 12 on. No issues with any of the escorts. On JetBlue in particular, she was, in her own words, “treated like royalty,” both with her escort through the airports and on the plane by the staff. I don’t think we were lucky – just that you only hear the bad stories in the news.

    5. Just a side note that you don’t always get all that much with an unaccompanied minor escort based on an event I saw recently. I road the terminal train with an airline employee escorting a boy probably around 11 or 12 years old. I’m sure they eventually made it where they needed to go, but it was pretty humorous how unsure the employee was of what she was doing. I heard her tell the boy (who looked far more more at-home in the situation than the employee) that she didn’t typically do escorts and wasn’t all that familiar with the airport. Odd that with that many employees around that they couldn’t fine one who was comfortable moving around the airport for a task like that.

  4. Let the airlines charge a fee for gate passes and this will never be an issue again! (Tounge in cheek by the way)

          1. They are certainly not the only ones who request gate passes. So the joke wasn’t about people with disabilities.

          2. Oh god, I can’t wait for elites to ask for this privilege they feel entitled to 🙂

          3. they do already. so do guys who want to walk their girlfriends to the gate, wives who “just want to have lunch in the terminal” with their husbands, etc. It doesn’t stop. i’m about to make a main comment on the subject.

  5. I understand her concerns about Southwest’s “festival” seating, but I suspect that if they contacted the airline ahead of time, something could be worked out to allow her to board first and put her in a bulkhead seat. I remember a SW flight I had last year where I moved to a bulkhead seat during a stop at MDW, so I could de-plane first. One of the FA’s asked me, very nicely, if I could leave the bulkhead seats open for those less mobile, so I moved a row back.

    1. all they do is ask for preboard and/or a wheelchair, and SWA automatically boards them first. Old roomie has worked there for years.

  6. Airlines can and should do better. I’ve definitely seen that hard-as s mentality among some gate agents. Still, some passengers should not fly unaccompanied. My late father had Alzheimers and even at the earlier stages was easily confused. We had to have someone fly with him. It was the kind thing to do to avoid the “where am I and what do I do?” confusion he would get. There are two prongs here: one for airlines that need to do better and the other for passenger families who should think again in cases like this.

    1. I agree that the families definitely need to evaluate the circumstances and bear responsibility for the care of their loved ones…however if the situation can be safely handled by a gate pass for a relative (as they do with unaccompanied minors), it seems ridiculous that the airlines would deny this.

      1. Again, as with unaccompanied minors, they MUST know in advance when a 3rd party is picking up – not too difficult to call the airlines in advance to ensure it.

        1. Didn’t they know when she checked in for departure?
          They issued a gate pass there, so why not issue another gate pass upon arrival?

          1. not all airline reservations/check-in systems have that capability. i’ve worked for 2 airlines, 5 different systems. only ONE will show if a gate pass was ever issued, and that’s only if it’s issued from a particular screen. in a perfect world, you’d be right! unfortunately, it seems the people who design these systems don’t ever use them in the real world.

          2. Agreed because who would ever think it is that hard to get a gate pass to accompany/pick up a disabled pax who did not even ask for a wheelchair or anything else?

          3. I’ll be every one of those five different systems enabled the gate agent to note that the pax was obnoxious/drunk/rude/smelly/or just rubbed the gate agent up the wrong way.

          4. An agent typing in Remarks are not the same as a system automatically updating to show a gate pass is issued, and that was the point of the postings between me and Tony. But gee thanks for your deep insight.

    2. But they do the job correctly when notified in advance. I think that was the problem here – someone unrelated and not noted in the record would not go over well at the gate (too many previous horror stories to tell there!)

  7. As a veteran I find this story especially troubling. In a blink of an eye anyone’s life can change by illness or injury.
    Would a veteran that incurred traumatic brain injury be treated so shabbily by the airlines?

  8. If meeting someone at the gate is of paramount importance and the airline will not “provide” a way to get through security, a work around is to purchase a fully refundable ticket on a credit card for a flight that departs several hours after the time of the arrival from a gate near the arrival gate (or in the same terminal) After meeting the passenger, cancel the ticket.

    I agree that it should not be necessary to do so, but this would at least allow one to meet an arriving passenger and avoid the stress of them becoming lost and having to find them.

    1. The whole idea of the ACAA law is to help people with disability and to not get discrminated on. You should not have to do that, buy a refundable ticket, just to assist a passenger with a disability.

      1. Completely agree. But while we are working toward raising sensitivity and compliance to the law, I wanted to at least show a work around so that others faced with a similar situation and who might not have a friend or relative working at a terminal could at least meet the passenger who is in need of assistance.

    2. I’ve done that before. A bit of a hassle, and probably quite obvious to the airport ticket agent who is asked for a fully-refundable ticket on a flight departing imminently. An inconvenience, but a ridiculous work-around when others are being ridiculous.

  9. When there is no penalty for failure, failure can easily occur. I recall what is now an old comedy line from the Ma Bell era: “We don’t care. We don’t have to.”

  10. There are too many types of mental disabilities for the airlines to deal with them all. It’s not like simply having a wheel chair for mobility impaired passengers. I agree that they should fly with an escort.

    1. Which disabilities would you require an escort for? All psychological? At what level of mental impairment should an escort be required? Who decides the IQ cutoff? Who verifies it? Do all passengers need to take IQ tests before they should be allowed to travel? What about perfectly “normal” individuals who simply can’t read? What about the older person with undiagnosed Alzheimers?

      As soon as you make a blanketing statement like that you open up a massive can of worms that ends up doing more harm than good.

    2. Well, didn’t Delta pay a very large fine for not providing wheelchairs and attendants as required by law.
      If airlines cannot obey the law, then they should not be allowed to fly passengers.

  11. I wonder if there isn’t a way to contact the carrier’s customer service prior to the flight and ask the representative to note on the record that the passenger is developmentally disabled. It would state that a named person (in this case Hannah Newmark) is to be given a gate pass to escort the passenger through the terminal. Having that information on the record would establish the legitimacy of the pass request.

    1. My guess would be that in that case the caregiver risks having the ticket cancelled if they won’t purchase another ticket for an assistant to travel with the disabled individual.

      Oh, and be charged extra to make sure they have seats assigned together.

    2. Yes, there is a way. But regardless, the airline is still required to accomodate her special needs without prior notice since she did not need special equipment.

  12. For future reference, ask for the Complaints Resolution Officer (CRO). Airlines are required to let travelers have access to a CRO as part of the American with Disabilities Act. Simply state that the traveler is being mistreated as a result of her disability and the gate pass is the resolution. Even if the issue at hand does not apply, they may overrule the front line employee in the request. If not, they have to follow through with a formal response of the denial. (Easier to just give the gate pass!)

    1. Similar to the situation involving FAA safety requirements, part 382 is consistent with security requirements mandated by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). For example, TSA has strict rules as to which persons can go beyond the screener checkpoints, but these TSA rules are consistent with part 382 and do not invalidate your obligation to provide enplaning and deplaning assistance requested by passengers with disabilities, including assistance beyond screener checkpoints. You do have discretion in how that assistance is provided. You can provide (i) a “pass” allowing an individual who needs to assist a passenger with a disability to go through the screener checkpoint without a ticket; (ii) assistance directly to the passenger; or (iii) both.

      If they don’t give you pass then they must provide for a personal care assistant to accompany your loved one till they are boarded in the airplane. Same when deplaning.

  13. I didn’t vote. One experience such as Ms Schofield is one too many, the problem seems to be easily remedied.

    When my 10 year old grandson flew from the Northeast to Miami, the care taken for an unaccompanied minor was efficient and seamless. My daughter gave Delta Airline
    information about us and we were sent an email with instructions to show it and
    our identification to TSA and the Delta people in Miami. We were permitted to go through TSA to the gate and the Delta cabin crew escorted the youngster off the plane. She asked to see our identification, checked to see we were the authorized recipients, and then asked my grandson, “Do you know these people?” (At that point I humorously
    envisioned a smart Alek kid saying, “I never saw these people before in my
    life.” That didn’t happen.)

    Why couldn’t a similar procedure be used for emotionally disabled people?

    Side note… and an additional compliment for Delta: In an effort to keep an eye on a youngster in their charge, they put him in first class. I imagine because there was a seat available. It was his first flight ever. On the return trip, they took equally good and secure care of him, but he complained about not getting a first class seat. Ha ! Welcome to the randomness of life.

    The writer mentioned that she was told “it was left up to the gate personnel.” That shouldn’t be the case. The airline should have a policy to which all employees must adhere.

    Someone once said that societies should be judged by the care they take of the less fortunate among them. The same applies to airlines.

    1. UMNR is an internal airline policy whereas ACAA is a law.
      The airline cannot charge extra for disabled pasengers.
      They can charge for UMNR.
      There’s a lot of other differences.

    2. But if they don’t know in advance because the CAREGIVER didn’t bother to do so, how are they to know this is legitimate when a 3rd party states it?

  14. §382.29   May a carrier require a passenger with a disability to travel with a safety assistant?

    (a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, you must not require that a passenger with a disability travel with another person as a condition of being provided air transportation.
    (b) You may require a passenger with a disability in one of the following categories to travel with a safety assistant as a condition of being provided air transportation, if you determine that a safety assistant is essential for safety:
    (1) A passenger traveling in a stretcher or incubator. The safety assistant for such a person must be capable of attending to the passenger’s in-flight medical needs;
    (2) A passenger 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) or the safety regulations of a foreign carrier’s government, as applicable;
    (3) A passenger with a mobility impairment so severe that the person is unable to physically assist in his or her own evacuation of the aircraft;
    (4) A passenger who has both severe hearing and severe vision impairments, if the passenger cannot establish some means of communication with carrier personnel that is adequate both to permit transmission of the safety briefing required by 14 CFR 121.57(a)(3) and (a)(4), 14 CFR 135,117(b) or the safety regulations of a foreign carrier’s government, as applicable, and to enable the passenger to assist in his or her own evacuation of the aircraft in the event of an emergency. You may require a passenger with severe hearing and vision impairment who wishes to travel without a safety assistant to notify you at least 48 hours in advance to provide this explanation. If the passenger fails to meet this notice requirement, however, you must still accommodate him or her to the extent practicable.
    (c)(1) If you determine that a person meeting the criteria of paragraph (b)(2), (b)(3) or (b)(4) of this section must travel with a safety assistant, contrary to the individual’s self-assessment that he or she is capable of traveling independently, you must not charge for the transportation of the safety assistant. You are not required to find or provide the safety assistant, however.
    (2) For purposes of paragraph (b)(4) of this section, you may require, contrary to the individual’s self-assessment, that an individual with both severe hearing and vision impairments must travel with a safety assistant if you determine that—
    (i) The means of communication that the individual has explained to you does not adequately satisfy the objectives identified in paragraph (b)(4) of this section; or
    (ii) The individual proposes to establish communication by means of finger spelling and you cannot, within the time following the individual’s notification, arrange for a flight crew member who can communicate using this method to serve the passenger’s flight.
    (3) If a passenger voluntarily chooses to travel with a personal care attendant or safety assistant that you do not require, you may charge for the transportation of that person.
    (d) If, because there is not a seat available on a flight for a safety assistant whom the carrier has determined to be necessary, a passenger with a disability holding a confirmed reservation is unable to travel on the flight, you must compensate the passenger with a disability in an amount to be calculated as provided for instances of involuntary denied boarding under 14 CFR part 250, where part 250 applies.
    (e) For purposes of determining whether a seat is available for a safety assistant, you must deem the safety assistant to have checked in at the same time as the passenger with a disability.
    (f) Concern that a passenger with a disability may need personal care services (e.g., assistance in using lavatory facilities or with eating) is not a basis for requiring the passenger to travel with a safety assistant. You must explain this clearly in training or information you provide to your employees. You may advise passengers that your personnel are not required to provide such services.

    1. Uh huh, agree with the emphasis you added. My point is that if the airlines are going to cite “safety” as their rationale for stating that the Ms. Schofields of the world require an assistant, then, by golly, they have to go all the way and transport those assistants for free. They cannot have it both ways.

      1. I guess you are referring to this USAir page.

        Safety assistants
        Required safety assistant

        Certain passengers are required to travel with a personal safety assistant, who must purchase a ticket. The assistant’s role is to help the passenger exit the aircraft in an emergency evacuation and/or to establish communication with our staff for the required safety briefing. The following individuals must travel with an assistant:

        – A passenger who, because of a mental disability, is unable to comprehend or respond appropriately to safety instructions from our staff, including the safety briefing required by FAA regulations or the safety regulations of a foreign carrier’s government (for international codeshare flights)

        – A passenger unable to physically assist in his or her own evacuation of the aircraft because of a severe mobility impairment

        – A passenger who has both severe hearing and severe vision impairments

        If it is determined that a passenger meeting one of these criteria must travel with a safety assistant – even if contrary to the passenger’s self-assessment – we are not required to find or provide one. If the passenger is unable to arrange for a safety assistant, he or she may be denied boarding.

        We do not provide personal care services, such as assistance with eating or using lavatory facilities.

        The underlined portion does not mention the complete rule. Of course they do not want to tell the passenger how to get the service assistant to travel for free 🙂

        1. Looks like the “who must purchase a ticket” is directly against the provisions of the Act we’ve been talking about all day.

          I’m hoping that certain consumer advocates and advocates for those with disabilities jump on to this and nail US Airways to the wall. Normally I’m not quite so bloodthirsty, but picking on “the least of my brethren” rankles a lot more today than on other days.

          1. Here’s the real irony. A service (or emotional support) animal can accompany the passenger for free throughout the whole trip (for all flights) whereas a loved one cannot even freely take/or pickup their disabled relative to/from the gate. Insane.

  15. As others have stated there are many different types of disabilities, and having one blanket rule does not aways fit. It would be ideal if an escort was allowed without having to purchase either a refundable ticket or an airline club room pass (which I have done to assist my mother who can get confused but is not disabled, just old and not an experienced flyer). I have been given a gate pass when working on the sterile side of security in an airport and not flying, it can be done by the airlines. You just cannot go through PreCheck lanes when they do that.

  16. It is disgusting that this kind of story happens at all. If an airline or airport cannot feel comfortable empowering their employees to do the right thing, they need new hiring and training guidelines. You can cite all the laws you want, but it comes down to the person on the front line, and that person needs to be able to make good, solid decisions in a case like this. The person who denied the gate pass was probably afraid for his job … that is too sad. I’ve flown with groups of athletes with disabilities many times, and 99% of the employees have always been truly supportive. I wish the woman who could not get in to meet her had threatened to call the media in to document the situation.

  17. In August, 2001 (just before 9/11) my elderly mother flew on DL to IAD from SLC for my son’s wedding. She was mobile but old, and IAD has long corridors with no moving sidewalks, golf cart type vehicles to transport people or such and even a young person with much to carry can find the long walk tiring. They would not let me go to the gate to meet her; I ordered a wheel chair for her but she was too hard headed (vain?) to accept the help, so she had a real struggle getting to baggage claim. So it’s not just the TSA, but airlines in general that aren’t always ready to help pax who need help. When she left, I made her use the wheel chair!

  18. Would it be possible/practical to require airlines to ask for assistants names during the booking process? That way, the assistant could/would receive a document from the airline similar to a boarding pass and sail right through TSA.

    1. Airtran has this one their website:
      Access beyond the security checkpoint is restricted

      You may proceed to the gate with unaccompanied minors or
      passengers requiring assistance, or pick up such passengers arriving at
      the airport, by obtaining a gate pass at the ticket counter. In order to
      obtain a gate pass, the reservation record must be documented with the
      customer’s name by a reservationist at the time of booking, indicating a
      gate pass will be needed. Please allow enough time before departure or
      arrival to obtain the gate pass.

      1. So, can others do the same? And couldn’t it be sent at the same time as the boarding pass (assuming it’s done online)?

        1. I need to be very clear here.
          Europe has a law about this.
          Regulation (EC) 1107/2006 governs the rights of people who have a disability or who have reduced mobility (PRMs) when travelling by air.
          In Europe the travel agent is required to enter the correct IATA SSR code in the PNR for PRMs.
          In the case of Eileen Schofield a SSR DPNA would have been added to her PNR. The agent can identify what she needs. This will alert the airlines and airports (since in Europe it is the airport that handles these issues).

          *DPNA = DISABLE PASSENGER (WITH INTELLECTUAL OR DEVELOPMENT DISABILITY) NEEDING ASSISTANCE

          In the USA, there is no similar DOT requirement.
          As an agent I can enter the SSR DPNA and write in free form messages to the airline(s). I am NOT required by law to do it, though.
          I can also send an OSI message to the airline to identify TBBM (to be brought by) and TBMB (to be met by) names as well as a request to issue a gate pass for them. I can also include local contact names and cell numbers, so the airline can call these people it they need to.
          All these messages will be on their PNR.
          Of course you need a good agent who knows what to do and is willing to do the right thing 🙂

          If you DIY your booking, be prepared to call the airline and request the same (as above).

          Added: Do not expect to get a gate pass for a non-passenger escort to be printed at home during OLCI. I don’t believe the TSA and airline will agree to this.

  19. The airlines do a very bad job for any person with a disability. Even tho’ USAirways was sued because of their lack of legal compliance esp. at CLT, their service has not improved nor has their attitude. I “look good” and don’t appear outwardly to have a disabiity .. until I try to walk. Because of that, the treatment I’ve received is horrific. At ORD with UAL, it’s worse because UA takes no responsibility for transfering passengers in the terminal from their flights to others of their flights. Their excuse is that it’s out of their control .. tho’ it would seem that if they cared (!) they would have additional staff w/ wheelchairs to take their passengers to and from gates. I’ve missed flights waiting for a wheelchair or cart. UA doesn’t care. They say it’s my responsibility.

    btw: Amtrak is far better .. in all the stations, even smaller ones, there is always someone with a wheelchair or cart to get you off a train and to another. No questions asked; no snide remarks made.

    1. The wheel chairs are not managed by the carriers and the people who push you in them are not employees of the carrier. We didn’t have a wheelchair waiting for my Dad upon arrival in ORD, so we stopped the person pushing an empty on and got her to assist us. It is frustrating.
      Just flew a 777 with UA and it was either new or reconfigured, as one of the bathrooms was wheelchair accessible. It was huge, lots of space. That is the first restroom on a plane that I have seen or been in that could allow a wheelchair and an assistant. if one was needed.

      1. i was just about to say this. those are contract workers usually contracted by the airport itself! not the airline! we don’t get a choice of who pushes our wheelchairs, we just call the contract company when someone requests one. there are times when people have had to wait quite awhile before one comes, because the others are being used. (this is especially true around the holidays.) and there are always those who use the wheelchair service not because they need it, but because they want to skip the lines. so those who truly need the help are left to wait, and guess who gets yelled at and blamed? not the contract company! ME! it’s all my fault that they didn’t have “enough” wheelchairs on that particular day!

        1. The airline is still RESPONSIBLE.

          §382.15 Do carriers have to make sure that contractors comply with the requirements of this Part?

          (a) As a carrier, you must make sure that your contractors that provide services to the public (including airports where applicable) meet the requirements of this part that would apply to you if you provided the services yourself.

          (b) As a carrier, you must include an assurance of compliance with this part in your contracts with any contractors that provide services to the public that are subject to the requirements of this part. Noncompliance with this assurance is a material breach of the contract on the contractor’s part.

          (1) This assurance must commit the contractor to compliance with all applicable provisions of this Part in activities performed on behalf of the carrier.

          (2) The assurance must also commit the contractor to implementing directives issued by your CROs under §§382.151 through 382.153.

          (c) As a U.S. carrier, you must also include such an assurance of compliance in your contracts or agreements of appointment with U.S. travel agents. You are not required to include such an assurance in contracts with foreign travel agents.

          (d) You remain responsible for your contractors’ compliance with this part and for enforcing the assurances in your contracts with them.

          (e) It is not a defense against an enforcement action by the Department under this part that your noncompliance resulted from action or inaction by a contractor.

          1. so airlines should require that the contractors buy 100 extra wheelchairs for those infrequent occasions when more are needed than usual? that’s like telling an airline to have a 100 extra airplanes chilling in a garage for those occasions when one has a mechanical breakdown.

          2. On our part, it is an SSR and R stands for Request. I advise clients that this is a request, and sometimes they have to follow up with it at the gate upon arrival if they are not met.

          3. That’s how laws are. They just tell you a bunch of things you need to do. The rest is your problem. 🙂
            In Europe it is the airports responsibility. In the USA it is the airline’s responsibility.
            If you ever want to see a wheelchair event, hop over to the terminals where you have a flight to Asia. They must have the oldest people in the World.

  20. More than once with younger family flying through MCO SW and AA have given me gate passes to pass security and gate drop as well as pickup. It sounds like a lack of common courtesy and sense.

  21. I have had good luck getting gate passes. The one time they would not do it, I bought a one way refundable ticket leaving from the same terminal 3 hours later. Went through security and picked up my friend who is disabled, went out to the same rep. and cancelled the ticket, refund issued, everyone wins. Most agents happily give gate passes but some are on power trips.

    1. Many people do not have the financial ability to buy and return a fully refundable ticket at a moment’s notice. I can imagine that many people caring for those with developmental disabilities would not have a charge card with “no preset limit” that enables them to do as you did.

      Another issue in this case is that Eileen Schofield was being met by a volunteer, her sister may not have known which volunteer would be meeting Eileen to enable the information to be recorded in the PNR. All she may have know is that it was a volunteer from X organization.

      Some people just get officious and uncooperative because they can.

  22. my comment will have a few facets.
    one concerns me being a ticket agent. i would have no problem issuing a gate pass in this case, however my boss might disagree… seems he has been directed by TSA to severely limit the number of passes we give out, even for valid reasons. we were told to stop giving them for teens under 18 but over the “unaccompanied minor” age limit. some airlines that’s a 12 year old who can travel on their own without the UM fee, so to deny a parent walking them to the gate is ludicrous (IMHO), and i will defy that directive. i don’t think my boss would write me up, either! but there are certainly those in management positions in this industry who would, and i can’t blame an agent for following the rule for fear of losing their job. “right thing to do” or not, some managers don’t care, and you better do what they say.

    another concerns everyone and their brothers asking for gate passes. it’s true. and i’ve heard it all: “i just want to walk my girlfriend to the gate and wait with her until her flight leaves”; “i just want to have lunch with my husband in the terminal before he boards his plane”; “can’t i just go to spend time with my (30 year old) son before he goes?”; “my wife has 3 hours before her flight. is she supposed to just sit there by herself?”; “i’m an elite, i get to go meet my wife at the plane”; “my friend is flying in, what do you mean i can’t go to the gate to pick them up?” you name it, i’ve heard it. the number of requests for completely unnecessary reasons is staggering.

    and finally, the TSA themselves are a problem. they are actually SUGGESTING to passengers that they request a gate pass! no joke! typical example: i had a couple last week — mid-20s with girlfriend only traveling — that returned to the counter to request one. i hadn’t checked them in initially, so when they asked i made some basic inquiries — is someone disabled, in need of assistance, a child? the boyfriend said, “No. The lady at security asked if i was coming through, too, and when i said i wasn’t flying, she said to get a gate pass from you guys.” they hadn’t even WANTED a pass, hadn’t even thought it was a possibility, but good ol’ TSA told them they could get one! this happens All.The.Time. and the kicker is that all of these directives outlining who should get a pass come directly from… THE TSA.

    so while i think USAir dropped the ball here, i can see why it happened in the first place. (and for the record, i issue them for UMs of course, anyone under 18 going alone, disabled folks –physically or mentally, those in complete need of translation, military members leaving on orders, and sometimes we’ve been authorized when a mom is traveling with several small children on her own and a spouse/parent can help her to/from the gate… strollers, carseats, etc get cumbersome when you have 2 younguns to watch and an infant to carry, and it’s in everyone’s best interest to have a helper.)

    sorry so long. had a lot to say on this!

    1. Glad you mentioned it because this is really a TSA problem since they are the gatekeeper to the airport’s secure area.
      Interestingly, the TSA has this on their site:

      TSA Cares is a help line to assist travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. TSA recommends that passengers call 72 hours ahead of travel for information about what to expect during screening.
      Travelers may call TSA Cares toll free at 1-855-787-2227 prior to traveling with questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint. TSA Cares will serve as an additional, dedicated resource specifically for passengers with disabilities, medical conditions or other circumstances or their loved ones who want to prepare for the screening process prior to flying. Travelers may also request a Passenger Support Specialist ahead of time by calling the TSA Cares hotline at 1-855-787-2227.

      They even have a meet at the gate program for Military Personnel, Injured Service Members/Veterans and Wounded Warriors.

      We provide information for family members who would like to obtain gate passes to accompany or meet loved ones at the gate and in addition provide comprehensive airport security information for severely injured military personnel.

    2. I need to comment on the airlines’ UMNR programs. These are made and designed exclusively by each airline. Many require the parent’s to be at the airport until the plane departs. Where should the parents be? At the gate? At Starbucks?
      No wonder parents are at the gate 🙂

      1. not quite sure if you’re agreeing or disagreeing with me!
        more than once, i’ve had parents watch their kids walk down the jetbridge, and before the child is even on the airplane the parent is sprinting out of the terminal. seems they are thrilled to be rid of their progeny. we have had to chase them down and make them stay. it’s ridiculous.

  23. a minor point is that too often, people are dropping off cognitively disabled people at the curbside checkin and just expecting the airline to do everything from that point on. and i mean literally dropping off at the side of the airport road. the person doesn’t speak understandably, can barely walk, doesn’t have an itinerary nor a confirmation number, can barely tell where they even are, and i’m supposed to figure out who they are and where they’re going, which bags are check-in and which are carry-on, etc? not cool. take care of your aging, elderly, and disabled relatives, please! it is cruel to leave them like that, confused and alone.

    1. From the DOT’s own manual …

      QUESTION: I understand that part 382 requires airlines to provide wheelchair enplaning assistance, on request. I need wheelchair assistance getting from the curb, at the entrance to the airport, to the airplane. Are carriers required to provide wheelchair service from the curb to the airplane or only from the ticket counter to the airplane?

      ANSWER: Part 382 requires carriers to provide wheelchair enplaning help, on request, from the curb to the airplane on departure, and from the airplane back out to the curb upon arrival.
      However, carriers are not required to station employees at the curb to await the arrival of passengers with disabilities. Therefore, it is advisable to ask a friend or a cab driver to help in getting the attention of carrier personnel in the terminal to obtain the required assistance if the carrier does not have curb-side attendants. If requested, after your flight arrives at your destination, the carrier must also assist you in claiming your checked luggage before assisting you in a wheelchair to the curb. [Sec. 382.39]

      Now in real life … My brother took my parents to JFK T4 (Delta) for a return flight. They both had confirmed wheelchair requests on all their flight segment on the PNR. There is no place to wait in the curb so you can call for a wheelchair. You cannot just leave the vehicle and run inside. There was one porter who took bags in. Unless you want to wait outside forever or carry your own bags in, you would have to go use curbside luggage check in. (The fact that they were on BC to Tokyo and beyond, and were Delta Elites is irrelevant.) Good luck getting any help otherwise.

      1. We used wheelchair service for my Dad for the last few years of his life. Just as I explain to my clients, we would tell the Skycap or go inside to a Red Coat telling them we had the chair request, seat Dad on a chair (always found them right inside the doors) and would wait with him for the chair. If someone is taking the passenger to the airport, who is not traveling with the passenger, then you take an extra person with you who waits with the passenger while you move your car and come around again. Very easy.

        1. Not in T4 JFK. I have been to T4 about 4 times in the last 2 weeks.
          All I can say is that is an absolute mess outside. There was no skycap to think of. The folks in the curbside check in told my Dad, that there was only ONE person doing it. So unless he wants to wait at least an hour to have his bags checked inside, he should do it at the curb (with him) and then walk in to the Delta counter to get his wheelchair.

  24. “The airline added that anyone who because of a mental disability is unable to comprehend or respond appropriately to safety instructions from its crew must travel with an assistant.”
    –so, just to be clear, children are not allowed to travel alone? When did that happen?

  25. On the other hand, I read about a case in which British Airways and Heathrow Airport made very specific accommodations for a young man with autism who needed to fly back and forth from London to Boston to attend a special school — including guaranteeing that his flight would always be the same plane layout, from the same gate, with the same gate and cabin crew. On the easier end, why can’t airlines provide an option like they do for unaccompanied minors, where you pay a bit extra to get the child escorted? Or perhaps if you request a wheelchair, which is gratis, even though the person can walk but just can’t manoever on their own? There are some people for whom flying will still be difficult or impossible, because it’s cramped and crowded. But many could fly if a small amount of support were available.

  26. Ms. Schofield was treated poorly. The airline keeps saying that gate agents may make a decision to disapprove a request, but they didn’t give a reason why they did so. Sounds like little people flexing muscle to me. The couple flying with twin daughters I have less sympathy for. I’m unclear if all 4 were seated separately or if they were split 2 x 2. As far as I’m concerned as long as 1 parent is with 1 child that is all that is necessary. But jiminey crickets.. they called their SENATOR? Entitled much?

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