Continental Airlines — Violation of ADA/failure to accommodate medical requirements
I suffered a significant injury (I was hit by a cab, my foot being run over) while traveling on 11/12/08. I was given clearance to travel by air the next day (11/13) provided that I was able to ice my injury by using a cryo cuff boot and elevate the foot. The orthopedic physician emphasized the potential for permanent injury if this condition was not met, due to the acuteness of the injury, and the impact that cabin pressure could have. My seats for both legs of my flight (flight 2592 from Indianapolis to Cleveland and flight 5844 from Cleveland to Providence) were seat 1A.
On the first leg of my flight, the entire flight crew was sympathetic to my needs and provided assistance. I was allowed to keep my cryo cuff boot and cooler with me during the flight and allowed to elevate my foot.
When I was wheeled to the plane in Cleveland (the same type of airplane), I explained my needs to the flight attendant. She informed me that it was against Federal regulations to keep any item in front of me during the flight and that she would have to move me. I informed her that I needed to keep the medical device with me, but she still refused and moved me to row 6. However, she walked away when I did not give her the device. She told me that there was a “Fed” on the plane and she had to follow the rules. I told her I did not care who was on the plane, my medical needs should be met. She again refused and I felt strongly that if I had continued to pursue my request that she would have had me removed from the plane.
During the flight, I experienced severe pain, since the leg could not be properly elevated. Since I also gained a seatmate after she moved me, I was also kicked in the ankle 2 or 3 times. I noted an increase in my respiration as my pain level increased.
At the end of the flight, the attendant never informed me that a wheelchair was being brought to assist me. I moved out of the seat in order to allow the seatmate to leave. The attendant never approached me to indicate that she would help retrieve my belongings until I started to get them myself. I looked at her and said “are you kidding me?” at which point she approached me and said, “I have no idea what I’ve done to cause you to be angry with me ma’am”. I told her that angry was not the word that I would use, that she had caused me unnecessary pain and distress. I reminded her that the flight crew on the first leg of my trip had accommodated me. By moving me, she had only insured that I would be unable to elevate my foot, which was a condition on my approval to travel and that she had potentially increased my risk for permanent damage. I was in serious pain, almost as bad as what I experienced immediately after the injury occurred. This could have been mitigated if the attendant had met my request for accommodation. Her response was that she was sorry that the other crew had, “not done their job” and that she could show me the Federal regulations that prohibited her from allowing me to elevate my foot in the first row. This was a different excuse from what she gave me in Cleveland where she told me she was moving me because I could not have an item that was not stored in front of me during flight.
Regardless whether or not this Federal regulation exists, it was superceded by the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) which clearly indicates that reasonable accommodations be made to ensure my health and welfare. This flight attendant’s refusal to even hear my reasons, let alone review the documents that I had with the accommodations listed cannot go without reprimand. This individual was rude, unsympathetic and downright nasty.
I contacted 1-800-WECARE2 to lodge my complaint. "Miss Cunningham" filed my complaint and indicated that it would be "handled internally". That sounds to me like code for "this is going straight into the garbage". I have a case number and told her that I would be pursuing this at the corporate level since it was apparent that this flight attendant needed retraining in what the ADA was and what the definition of "reasonable accommodations" would be.