Saturday, August 22, 2009

Did United Airlines violate the Americans with Disabilities Act?

August 20, 2009
Mr. Glenn F. Tilton
Chairman, President and
Chief Executive Officer
United Airlines
77 Wacker Drive
Chicago, IL 60601
Re: Flight #105 Connecting in O’Hare to Las Vegas McCarran Airport
August 19, 2009
Assigned Seat Numbers: 22E, 22D, 23E and 23D
“In the air and on the ground, online and on the telephone, our customers have the right to expect - to demand- respect, courtesy, fairness and honesty from the airline they have selected for travel.”
Dear Mr. Tilton,

I am sending this letter to you directly via Federal Express as one of your employees, identified as a supervisor, named A.C. Jackson has intimated that she will ruin the remainder of my vacation if I do not comply with her whimsical request.

I was traveling from Newark to Las Vegas on Wednesday, August 19, 2009, with my family and my handicap son’s nanny. I stood up to let the nanny take the child to the bathroom; at the same time the gentlemen in seat 23F realized we were all together and offered to change seats with me. This took all of 90 seconds. My son at the same time began to repeat potty, potty, potty. The seat belt light was on but others were moving around the plan. We were only a couple of rows from the toilet. One of the flight attendants, who chose to remain nameless, began to yell at my son and pointed at him “GO BACK TO YOUR SEAT.”

Jahi is 5 years old and has autism so he did not respond. At this point she locked the bathroom and began to yell “GO BACK TO YOUR SEAT RIGHT NOW”. I explained to the Attendant that he was autistic and did not understand. She then began to yell at me and my husband; she was abusive and condescending - you are the parents sit him down. As she continued to rant and rave, I became defensive in disbelief. My son began to cry potty, potty, potty. Eventually she unlock the door, but not before he wet himself.

My husband asked her why she locked the bathroom; no response was given. I informed the other Flight Attendant, at the rear of the aircraft, that I would like to speak to the supervisor and asked for information so that I could make a complaint, information which I never received by the way.

It appeared to me that the Flight Attendant was attempting to initiate further confrontation with me as she brushed by me as I was standing in the back talking with the other Flight Attendant. I went back to my seat and began to document the course of events, while all the chaos was fresh in my head, on my laptop. I was humiliated, upset and eventually calmed myself down and did not say anything more to the Attendant for the remaining two hours of the ride, even though she continued ranting with various passengers in my earshot.

As my family and I deplaned the police detained us and a woman who was standing nearby with a tag , identifying her as Supervisor A.C. Jackson was present. She did not look in my direction, was not interested in my side of things; the only thing that she said to me was that she had called the police and that I would have to put my complaint in writing within 40 hours or I may not be allowed to travel home on United Airlines, despite the fact that I‘d paid.

In addition, to the United Airlines supervisor and the city police, a representative from homeland security was present. They asked for my ID, which I provided and my social security number which I did not. I was told by the Las Vegas Police that I was not under arrest but I could not leave until the FBI arrived. My family and I were detained for 2.5 hours waiting for the FBI, while the Flight Attendant left with a smile on her face for me; my autistic son was confined and traumatized by the entire experience.

FBI agent, Enrico Preston who may have arrived because we were taken to another room in another part of the airport; he read me my rights and I signed a piece of paper so that we could talk as I had nothing to hide. The agent took my story, my ID and my social security number, left the room for a few minutes returned and told me that I was free to go.

Mr. Tilton, your employees (Flight Attendant and AC Jackson, supervisor) have failed miserably to treat this passenger and family with respect, despite the fact that I demanded to be respected. The Flight Attendant was not courteous nor honest. She attempted to usurp my right to fairness by embellishing on the events that happened, override my intention of filing a complaint by calling the police, homeland security and the FBI, when I just asked to speak to the supervisor, who refused to communicate with me. Two hours passed and the situation was diffused, but the vindictive, retaliatory nature of your Flight Attendant lived on.

There were no charges filed. There were no crimes committed. There were no violations sited. Only an abuse of authority, by your personnel; overkill, I think so; voicing dissatisfaction, with the entire experience has essentially ruin my vacation.

Mr. Tilton, I’d like you to consider that I informed the crew that my son had autism. They remained totally insensitive to this information. Your stewardess expected me to make him overcome his disabilities and biological needs because I am his mother. She never asked how she could help as is implied in United Airlines policy for Americans with disabilities. Had she been professional enough I could have explained that behavior has to be redirected, yes, but using the bathroom had to come first. Her actions set off a series of events that I could not control. Detaining my son for 2.5 hours with full knowledge of his disability was cruel.

I would like to know how committed United Airlines policy is for people with disabilities. I believe that your airlines is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. What do you think?