We are in the midst of a very stressful transition, moving across the country from Charleston, SC to Portland, OR, in order to access better educational and therapeutic resources for our daughter Camille, who has Cerebral Palsy.
One of US Airways' gate agents, Connie Owens, took it upon herself this morning to make our travel even more difficult, stressful, and inconvenient. I do not have sufficient words to express my absolute disgust and disappointment with Ms Owens' lack of compassion, flexibility and courtesy.
We have flown with our daughter many times in the past eight years, usually taking US Airways because their crews have been unfailingly helpful, sympathetic and courteous. Until now.
Follow me below the orange clouds for the gory details . . .
Camille is now twelve years old, nearly 100 pounds, and almost five feet tall. She is non-ambulatory, non-verbal, has autistic-like sensitivities, and often will require one or more diaper changes on a long flight. Consequently, we always sit as close to the back of the plane as possible, as she is much too large to change in the tiny bathroom, and past flight crews have been very accommodating in arranging to either block off the aisle, screen off the last row of seats, or allow us to use the floor of the galley when everything is locked down after service.
We were explaining this to the flight crew and Ms Owens when she took it upon herself to insist that that absolutely could not be done, that we were only allowed to change Camille in the bathroom, which is physically impossible, and to aggressively verbally berate my wife Christina over wanting to make some arrangement so that we could get to our destination with a minimum of discomfort and inconvenience to ourselves and our fellow passengers.
Her aggression set off our daughter into a loud and prolonged screaming fit. Rather than wait for the meltdown to pass, or to back off and give us a chance to calm our daughter, Ms Owens immediately contacted security to have us removed from the plane, which was unnecessary, humiliating, and a tremendous inconvenience.
The security manager, Mike, was extremely kind, courteous and helpful as he assisted us from the plane, and consequently rebooked our flights for tomorrow, and set us up at a hotel near the airport. Nonetheless, this has made a difficult and stressful trip even more so, and has caused us to have to scramble to rearrange things at our point of arrival.
We are also stuck in a hotel without most of our luggage and some of our prescriptions. This has been, overall, a horrible experience, and certainly will make us think twice before flying US Airways or its affiliates again. In addition, I cannot imagine that Ms Owens' actions were in any way acceptible per the ADA.
I attempted to call to make and resolve this complaint, but the agent and supervisor I spoke with insisted that it could only be addressed through a web form, promising contact in one to three business days, which is infuriating.
On the positive side, Yvonne J, another gate agent, was tremendously helpful and compassionate. We also received assistance from an airport maintenance man, whose name I did not catch, in replacing a bolt on the wheelchair that broke as we were bringing it up the gangway.
Special needs flyers and parents - have you had similar experiences? Advice? Insights? How do I get people to treat my child like a human being?
Guess it's just an affirmation that we're doing the right thing, getting the Hell out of the increasingly ignorant and bellicose South.
5:41 PM PT: Thank you for your compassionate comments, and our first trip to the Rec list . . . which has certainly been smoother and more pleasant than our trip to Portland . . .
Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 1:33 PM PT: We have arrived safely in Portland. Thank you for your compassion & support. New diary as soon as we're settled in.