Traveling when you are disabled and have additional equipment is already difficult. Airplane aisles are narrow, restrooms inadequate, and additional luggage means additional fees. But for one woman, misunderstandings with Delta airlines nearly left her stranded away from home.
Via the Star Tribune:
Salberg’s problems began shortly before takeoff on her return flight. As one of her nurses lugged a 25-pound battery on board, she was stopped and told that the pilot needed to inspect it.
[Carrie] Salberg, who was already in her seat, said she couldn’t tell the flight crew she already had airline approval because she didn’t have the device she needs to speak. Crew members were shown the compliance letter and told Salberg had flown previously, but those reassurances were brushed off.
“It’s intimidating because they have the authority to bump you off the flight and you don’t have the expertise to argue with them,” Salberg said.
Instead of a direct flight — which Salberg had paid extra for — her group was put on a flight to Atlanta, delaying their arrival in Minneapolis by about five hours. The delay meant Salberg couldn’t drink anything because she isn’t able to use a public restroom.
“It’s more than just an inconvenience,” Salberg said. “It can be a matter of health when they make decisions like that.”
Joan Headley, executive director of the International Ventilator Users Network, said one of the biggest problems passengers with ventilators face is a lack of consistency in how airline crews interpret the rules. In Salberg’s case, a company representative said the mistake happened because the flight crew was using manuals that were long out of date.
The government actually has addressed the problem for disabled patrons – a set of stickers that can be put on their equipment in order to show that it is approved for airline travel. The problem? The government never approved anyone to make the stickers, so two years later disabled customers still have to deal with misunderstandings, hassles, and in Salberg’s case, denial of the services she paid for.