It was only a few days back that i had written about the need for training the airline crew and staff away from rule-book and making them more sensitive towards the needs of passengers so that the need does not arise for the carrier to tender apologies in its aftermath. Another shocking incident has happened again. This time it is with the American Airlines and the passenger is a wheelchair-bound women. When it comes to providing services to passengers in need of special assistance, especially the disabled people, almost all airlines require these passengers to inform them well in advance. And, this woman also did precisely the same. So, when there was information with the carrier beforehand, the required service was not provided in time to the woman, forcing her to crawl humiliatingly in front of so many people to move into the cabin. How many of these onlookers came to her help is another issue, but is it not a very serious breach of duty for AA? Was it a rare miss or a callousness in attitude of the staff that they failed to get the ramp.
American Airlines special assistance rules have provision of providing the wheelchairs at airports and inside the cabins. These also permit you to carry your own wheelchairs right till the gate of cabin and then check these in at no additional cost. It also seeks to provide priority check in for these passengers so that there is a minimal discomfort to passengers. AA also requires passengers to disclose their special assistance needs at least 24 hours before scheduled departure of flights in domestic sector and at least 72 hours before scheduled departure in case of international flights. This woman, Theresa Purcell provided this information well in advance of her flight.While the airline has apologised for this incident, they are not likely to make any compensation to Ms Purcell, even though it is clear that the discomfort was caused to passenger due to negligence of the staff. It is also a violation of Air Carrier Access Act. Ms Purcell has brought out a legal case against the carrier and asked for compensation of $2.5 million.