Last week we went to Tim (my cousin) and Nicole’s wedding and had a great time! It was beautiful and so much fun! Plus a wonderful chance  to catch up with my family. Below is another blog with pictures from that event. But this post is about something else: our flight home. We had a terrible time on our flight home. Well there was one bright moment–it felt like a scene from a movie when at least 60 people (okay, well, two people and their large groups of students and parents) helped Laelia and I get home! In fact, we wouldn’t have been able to go home if not for those strangers! I was so grateful! I’ll copy and paste  parts of  a letter I sent  to Southwest this morning so you know a tiny bit of what happened:

“We arrived 45 minutes before our flight was to leave. [...]  I saw the line to check in was very long so I asked an employee in a Southwest uniform near the front of the line what could be done about my late arrival. [...] She informed me that there was nothing to be done and I would miss my flight and end up on stand-by. I then asked for a wheelchair for my daughter who has arthrogryposis affecting her arms and legs. She pointed across the room to the far side where I then, unassisted, dragged my bag, a car seat, my suitcase and my daughter to put her in the chair.      

When I arrived back at the end of the line behind a large school group, one of the parents of that group had noticed our dilemma. She then  took my bag for me and gave me her place in line. Another man in the group asked his kids to let me by. I did not initiate this charity, but appreciated it a lot. Getting permission from people in the line, I was cheered on and escorted to the front.  

The aforementioned Southwest employee then became confrontational and rude. She demanded the ticket of the lady helping me and ordered us to the back of the line. She then said that the 9/11 terrorists had cut in line and that this rule was enforced because of terrorist activity! At the mention of terrorist activity, I felt very ostracized and feared repercussions. Other people in the line behind us started to defend us and tried to explain that we had not cut in line. The Southwest employee became agitated and argumentative with them until a supervisor behind the kiosk spoke to her and graciously offered to take us.”

Yeah it was a bad experience. But the drama continued when we got off the plane. Here’s more from the later  part of the letter:

“I asked if a wheelchair would be available upon exiting the plane and  she  said it would be. So upon our exit from the plane we saw that same type of wheelchair waiting for us and I assumed it was ours. I put our car seat in the chair and while I was strapping my daughter into it, I overheard from behind me a female Southwest employee talking to a male Southwest employee (yet directed at me) to put another passenger into “that” wheelchair (referring to mine). Of the four Southwest employees in that crowded space right outside the plane, no one made eye contact with me or asked me to relinquish the wheelchair, but they all spoke loudly in my direction while pointing at me. This was very unprofessional. One Southwest employee, the man who had been ordered to take my chair, stood uncomfortably close to my daughter’s wheelchair while I was strapping her in. I asked him at that point if they needed this wheelchair for another passenger, and if he could then bring us another one. He replied sarcastically, “You mean a stroller? You need a wheelchair or a stroller?”    

My daughter was clearly in braces and could not move her arms or legs, plus I had her disabled parking placard on hand so I was able to “prove” she was disabled and needed the chair. He didn’t respond to me, but spoke to the female Southwest employee who had ordered the wheelchair be removed from me who then got into a bickering match about canceling the other wheelchair with another female employee who responded with, “You don’t have to talk to me that way.” Then the first female employee stormed off! So I asked the remaining Southwest employees if I could please leave now and was given permission.

My past experiences with Southwest staff have been positive. Employees, on the aircraft anyway, have always been courteous and usually humorous too. I would like assurances that my experience on June 13th will not reoccur. I feel that Southwest violated the anti-discrimination aspect of the Americans with Disabilities Act by assuming my daughter was not deserving of the equipment she needed. Because of this I would like a copy of your policy on dealing with handicapped passengers. And I want to know in writing what training your personnel receive in handling passengers with special needs. I look forward to your reply.  ”  

I then  signed my name and hope to hear from them. Yeah I really shouldn’t have to prove my daughter is “disabled enough” to deserve a wheelchair. Sheesh.  I felt like a rock star for remaining so nice. Gave myself a little reward too. When I got home I had fudge ice cream for dinner while watching Daria on DVD while crying my eyes out while getting my feet rubbed by my husband. Ah the girl life. :)

2 Responses to “Southwest”

  1. Linda Wesley says:

    Your rewards are definitely well-deserved. I’m sorry to hear about your awful experience. That’s really bad, and should not have happened.

  2. Robin Clark says:

    That is simply the most inhumane situation I’ve heard of on an airline. If you don’t hear back, and I know that you don’t have much free time, I’d certainly pursue it with perhaps a TV “action” person. Every station has a person who will go further into dissatisfying situations–this is quite different but it would be an awesome way for the public to know more about and understand what arthrogryposis is too.

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