United Airlines has opened an investigation in the allegations of abuse and animal cruelty raised by disabled veteran Jim Stanek.
This is a developing story UPDATED 7/24 22.30 GMT
"We have spoken with Mr. Stanek and several United employees about the delays Mr. Stanek experienced and the assertions about the actions of our employees," Mary Ryan, spokesperson for United Airlines told Reduced Mobility Rights on Tuesday.
"We are not yet able to confirm whether all of the individuals he encountered were in fact employees of United, but we take Mr. Stanek's assertions seriously and continue our review and our discussions with him."
"So far, our only conversation with United Airlines has been with them to discuss what occurred," says Lindsey Stanek, co-founder and CEO of Paws and Stripes. "They told us they had 30 days to complete an investigation of the incident."
Disabled veteran Jim Stanek alleges persons wearing the United Airlines uniform kicked his service dog Sarge twice. He also complained receiving little to no assistance while experiencing flight cancellations and delays on his way back to New Mexico from a fundraiser him and his service dog Sarge attended in Knoxville, TN.
Jim Stanek served three tours in Iraq before being medically retired in 2008 for his numerous injuries, chronic severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Traumatic Brain Injury. Stanek is the co-founder of Paws and Stripes, a non-profit association for wounded veterans that provide service dogs for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury.
Jim Stanek ordeal began on July 15 while connecting at Washington Dulles DC airport. He said his flight was cancelled after a three hour wait. He alleges having asked several times to speak to the airlines Complaint Resolution Official, the person in charge to assist with disabled passengers complaints, but was told there was none on-duty.
By law, a CRO may be available in person or by telephone but a CRO must be available during all hours of the carrier’s operation at the airport.
Reduced Mobility Rights obtained records proving that Mr Stanek flight of July 15 was actually cancelled: 2012-Jul-15 A320/Q Washington Dulles Intl (KIAD) Albuquerque Intl Sunport (KABQ) 10:25PM EDT 11:54PM MDT Cancelled
Mr Stanek also alleges that the flight he had been rebooked on the following day was cancelled. However, Reduced Mobility Rights obtained records proving the flight left with three and half hour delay. 2012-Jul-16 A320/Q Washington Dulles Intl (KIAD) Albuquerque Intl Sunport (KABQ) 10:15PM EDT 11:30PM MDT 3:15
Mr Stanek said that a United Airlines clerk objecting to his request of a hotel voucher on July 16 called him retarded.
The Guide to the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and its implementing regulations, 14 CFR Part 382, clearly identifies the word retarded as one airlines employees must avoid when interacting with people with disabilities.
Jim Stanek finally managed to be rebooked on a different airline on July 17. He and his service dog are still resting after the trying experience. "Jim is trying to bounce back, but the trip has made a noticeable effect on him," Lindsey Stanek, co-founder of Paws and Stripes said. "Sarge has been taken off duty to rest, and she is still very jumpy."
"Our employees routinely provide excellent service to customers with disabilities and service animals in the course of their jobs," the United Airlines spokesperson added. "Mr. Stanek's assertion is certainly counter to their training and the service they provide each day."
On Tuesday, Reduced Mobility Rights received confirmation that the Department of Transportation has opened an investigation into Jim Stanek's allegations. "DOT’s Aviation Enforcement Office received the complaint, and is currently investigating it. It is too soon to determine if United violated the Air Carrier Access Act regulation, 14 CFR Part 382," a DoT spokesperson said.
About the author
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Reduced Mobility Rights, Roberto Castiglioni has deep knowledge of PRM regulations and handling procedures, along with first-hand experience as travelling companion and carer of a passenger with reduced mobility.
Roberto is a member of ESAAG. Chaired by the Hon. David Blunkett MP, the Easyjet Special Assistance Advisory Group, ESAAG, provides Easyjet with strategic guidance and practical advice on the evolving needs of passengers requiring special assistance. Easyjet is the largest airline in the United Kingdom by number of passengers carried.