The following are letters from and to my friend concerning Northwest Airlines and a trip through Minneapolis Airport recently:
I appreciated your earlier responses, and had no trouble using and checking my wheelchair and TENS unit. The staff were all very polite and patient.
However, your Northwest airline care for disabled stranded passengers is non-existent and can lead to some extremely harmful situations. You must develop--and follow-- a procedure for procuring transportation to hotels for disabled passengers who are stranded overnight. I had an absolutely horrible experience, and I do not want any other disabled traveller on Northwest to go through the hell I endured on April 3, 2006.
We had severe weather-related delays coming from Charlotte to Minneapolis on April 3, 2006. We finally got into Minneapolis at 11:00 pm. (The crew, by the way, were heroically cheerful and upbeat even after a long ordeal that included 6 hours on an unconditioned airplane grounded in Raleigh. Great crew!!) All the help I received on the ground, however, was less than worthless. They simply gave me a 1-800 number and left me alone to find a way to get to a hotel.
My wheelchair does not fold up well, and taxi services require a 24 to 48 hour notice before accepting me as a passenger. I cannot get a taxi ride on the spur of the moment--or at 11 at night. Further, most hotel shuttles are vans that do not have room for the chair. I called the 1-800 number provided and could not get anyone to pick me up at that late notice--nor yet to gaurantee that I could get back to the airport at 5:30 am for the 7:10 flight out. So I had to stay in the
airport overnight. Beyond being uncomfortable, exhausting, and overtaxing, this is an unsafe situation. The wheelchair speaks for itself--this is a person unable to fend off any attackers, etc.
I was willing to pay for a hotel from my own pocket. I know that the delay was weather related and Northwest was not responsible. However, you do have a responsibility to ensure that I can get to a hotel in order to pay for it--and can also get back in the morning.
I want to see a policy promulgated in writing at Northwest that states:
If you have a disabled or other special needs person on a plane that you know will be coming in too late to make connections, you must:
1) Ask that person if they want transportation to a hotel--both going to the hotel and returning in time for the connecting flight in the morning.
2) Arrange for that transportation.
3) Provide a 24-hour emergency access to a disability advocate or coordinator at Northwest if these arrangements fall through.
This transportation could be a standing arrangement with taxis or Access-A-Ride in each city, it could be a company van that is equipped to handle electric and large manual wheelchairs, etc.
If I do not hear back from you within a week, I will take this up with other disabled advocacy groups, the FAA and my Senator, Ken Salazar. I will also write to the newspapers in Minneapolis, your hub city.
Thanks--I know you do want your passengers safe and you do want to maintain your reputation for safe travel at Northwest Airlines.
RE: Case Number (many numbers)
Thank you for contacting Northwest Airlines regarding the difficulties you encountered during your recent travel.
We want to give each of our customers the time and attention they deserve, and we appreciate your patience while we review your correspondence.
After we have researched your concerns, a response will be sent from our offices within 30 days. Please allow sufficient time for delivery via the US Postal System.
(Yet another person from Northwest)
Special Needs Coordinator, Customer Care
My friend is not asking the airline to pay for transportation -- simply to have Access-A-Ride or some other type of transportation suitable for wheelchairs, etc. available to transport disabled passengers to a hotel. In a strange city, it is nearly impossible for a person to arrange this for themselves. Is this such an unreasonable request?
Edit: I do have my friend's permission to post this in this community.