Early January severe weather events caused a shocking increase in disability related complaints, United Airlines said.
The latest air travel consumer report shows 64 disability related complaints were filed against US carriers in January 2014, up nearly 30% from 49 in January 2013.
United Airlines are the biggest offender in January 2014 with 22 complaints, up from 7 of January 2013. A total of 110 disability related complaints were filed with the DOT against United in 2013, making the airline the top offender among US air carriers for the year.
“The severe weather in early-January was among the worst weather events in our history, resulting in more than 6,300 cancelled flights and an increased number of complaints,” a spokesperson for United told Reduced Mobility Rights “All winter our employees managed through the extreme conditions and worked to get our customers to their final destinations.”
Other US carriers showed an opposite trend for the period. American Airlines and US Airways dropped from 21 complaints in January 2013 to 14 in 2014. US Airways received the second largest fine in history of aviation enforcement In November 2013. The DOT fined the airline $1.2 million for failing to provide adequate wheelchair assistance to passengers with disabilities.
Looking into January’s complaints against United we found a few that could hardly be classified as weather related. "I am very disappointed by my in last trip with United Airlines," Mrs Weber Wright posted on United's Facebook page. "After a long flight we landed at our destination the crew came out to lift my husband out of the seat and into the isle chair then treated him in an inexcusable manner. My husband said he was uncomfortable and it was hurting when he was lifted as they scraped his side along the seat."
The woman posted the picture of her husband's injuries tummy to corroborate her allegations. "This is a photo of my husband's side the next day," she said. "This does not look like something that he seemed to be making up, as your crew insinuated."
Mrs Weber Wright alleges that the person lifting her husband told him that he was not injured and that he couldn't feel it anyway. "Just because a man is in a wheelchair and cannot walk doesn't mean that he has no feeling," she said. "He was not fine. You bruised him and cut a huge gash in his side. He was bleeding while you told him to be quiet and that he was fine." United told Reduced Mobility Rights the complaint is being investigated.
"When I worked for United Airlines in the 1980’s, their motto was ‘Fly the Friendly Skies’ but, to us employees, it was more the case of dodging the forever looming clouds," former United employee Sandy Walker said. "Always a number, never a name, within its corporate identity ambitions and somewhere along its road to success, the heart went out of this airline."