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What are my ADA rights?
On February 20, 2020, I was returning (American Airlines) from a trip to Guatemala with a group of women friends. I wear a prosthetic leg and my ability to walk long distances is often limited. Because of that, I always request wheelchair service between connecting flights to ensure I make the connection.
Upon disembarking the aircraft, I took a seat in the waiting wheelchair, and my friends and I split up. Because I have Global Entry status, we agreed to meet after going through immigration and customs. At the gate I was transferred to a motorized cart where, along with a few other people, we waited for 15-20 minutes until we got the OK to move on. The cart delivered us to a waiting area, where I counted 30 people already waiting. There was no signage, no map, no indication of how far I was along in my journey to the gate of my connecting flight, and no wheelchairs or motorized carts anywhere in view.
A woman at a podium took our passports and flight information. I asked her how long I would have to wait. She could not say. I asked how far it was to immigration—maybe I could walk? “It’s a long walk,” she replied, without any further details about distance or time it would take to get there.
I watched the minutes tick away, inching toward boarding time, getting closer and closer to departure time of my connecting flight. Eventually the woman at the podium called my name and a wheelchair arrived. Luckily, we sped through immigration and customs. We arrived at the departure gate and I was able to board right away. In fact, I was the final person to board. I don’t remember now how long I waited for help at that intermediate waiting station, but there had been approximately 2 hours 20 minutes between arrival of the flight from GUA in MIA and departure of my connecting flight, and I got on board just before the doors closed.
While waiting, I tweeted a complaint and tagged MIA. They replied with a request for more details, which I have sent via email. I’d like to also contact American’s representative for ADA compliance. How can I reach them via email?
What else could I have done?
Chris Elliott’s site, elliott.org, lists contacts by company. It doesn’t list an ADA contact for AA but does list an address and email of the director of customer relations. I’d send a short, polite note to him but you may also want to contact the Miami airport folks. I would assume that the folks transferring you between planes worked for a company contracting to the airport and were not AA employees? If that’s the case it won’t hurt to let AA know about this gap in service but I’m not sure how much they’d be able to help.
Hi Brenda, +1 for elliott.org.
I can’t relate to the situation (kudos to you for not letting the leg hold you back from traveling!), but to me, I’m not sure exactly who is liable for what happened. I imagine most of the workers who handle the wheelchairs and the like, are contract workers. Also, the woman at the podium you mention sounds downright rude – but that’s hard to fix :).
And also, I think AA may look at the situation and say something along the lines of, ‘we’re sorry our MIA team did not meet expectations, but it seems you still safely made it to your connecting flight.’
I absolutely still think it needs to be raised, like you’re doing. Just maybe factor in that potential outcome as you frame your complaint.