Disabled Veteran Jim Stanek Accuses United Airlines of Abuse
- Written by Roberto Castiglioni
Disabled veteran Jim Stanek, founder of Paws and Stripes, accused United Airlines of abuse and animal cruelty.
Stanek alleges he was personally abused, called retarded, his service dog kicked twice, and eventually attended only after several complaints.
This is a developing story: Updated 17.05 BST Updated 09.21 BST July 22
A disabled veteran traveling with his service dog has accused United Airlines of abuse and animal cruelty.
Jim Stanek, who suffers from chronic severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury, posted his complaint against United on YouTube on Friday.
On July 13, Stanek flew to Knoxville, TN, to attend a fund raiser. His outbound flight went OK, bar the airline losing his luggage which incidentally contained his Meds.
On July 15, he began his journey home. His United Airlines flight home connected in Dulles DC. While waiting for his connecting flight, Stanek alleges one United employee kicked his service dog.
His flight, originally scheduled to depart at 6.55pm, was initially delayed. The flight was eventually cancelled after 3 hours. Stanek says the airline did not give him, or his service dog, any kind of assistance.
After repeated requests, he finally got hold of a supervisor who set him up with taxi vouchers and hotel vouchers.
On July 16, Stanek and his guide dog were on the airport shuttle going from terminal to terminal. That is when a man wearing a United Airlines uniform kicked the service dog for no reason. "I was angry, but did not say anything to the man," Stanek recalls.
Once at the gate, Stanek was told his flight was cancelled. He then called United customer service to rebook on another flight. Stanek was told to go to the customer service counter to get a new hotel voucher.
The employee manning the desk said he was not eligible for those vouchers. Stanek further questioned the customer service rep, at which point he says the employee asked him if he was retarded. Stanek lashed out at the employee, and moved to another desk. This time he received his vouchers.
On July 17, his morning flight was once again delayed. United then rebooked him on the evening flight the same day. As he was waiting in the customer service area, two employees of United approached Stanek.
Within 15 minutes, he was finally rebooked on another airline and could make his way home. "I was totally distraught," Stanek says. "Everybody was good to me and my dog on the flights; it is the ground staff that was terrible. I want to see that change."
Update: "We are reaching out to the customer directly to discuss the events that he described," a spokesperson for United Airlines told Reduced Mobility Rights on Saturday.
Update July 22: The US Department of Transportation has opened an investigation into disabled veteran Jim Stanek allegations of abuse and animal cruelty against United Airlines. Read more...
At this time it remains unknown if United recorded Mr Stanek's complaints, a mandatory action under CFR 14 Part 382, the law protecting the rights of disabled people traveling by air in the United States.
Jim Stanek is the co-founder of Paws and Stripes, a non-profit organization for wounded veterans that provide service dogs for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury.
Service dogs are obtained only from shelters, and are trained by professionals specializing in service dogs. Paws and Stripes aim to provide dogs and training for no cost to the veteran.