No care in the air? Experience of Airline Travelers with Disabilities Reveals Lack of Consistent Training Standards


How is this allowed to happen? This is just one of the questions you asked us following our survey on the difficulties faced by people with disabilities when traveling by air.

The man in this video, who is paralyzed from the chest down, recorded his experience on a recent flight to Fort Myers, calling it “another disabled flying nightmare”. He says he needs your help to make flying safer and more dignified for everyone.

As James Glasbergen arrives at Southwest Florida International Airport for his return trip to Toronto from his Cape Coral vacation home, he hopes his boarding will go smoothly.

“Every time I get on a plane, the first thing I say to myself in the morning, I can’t wait for this day to be over,” says Glasbergen.

He is a quadriplegic and needs a lot of help getting in and out of those airplane seats. His United Airlines flight to Fort Myers in February didn’t go so well.

Airline worker: “Hey Maria, call the doctor because I’m not going to take care of the wheelchair.”

This worker who left the plane is employed by G2 Secure Staff, a third-party contractor hired by United to manage customer services, including wheelchair attendants. Those who remained had difficulty getting Glasbergen off the plane and back on his way.

Airline worker: “It’s a disaster!”

In response to this video, G2 Secure staff emailed us a statement, saying in part, “we were delighted to hear the passenger state throughout the process that they were comfortable” .

Glasbergen didn’t say he was comfortable.

” It’s shocking. I don’t even know what to say,” says Glasbergen. “I was almost falling off the seat. I was lying flat on the seat, it was very uncomfortable.

I took the video to physical therapist Jim Creus of Lee Health and asked him to explain what happened.

“It’s always shocking to see him a bit,” Creus says. “But I’m not surprised.”

He says moving a severely disabled person can be difficult and one mistake could be devastating.

“Even if someone is kind of held the wrong way by an arm or a limb, or they get some kind of bruise or things like that, it can cause someone to back down,” Creus says. “It’s very difficult. If you don’t do it all the time. It’s easy for me to say that because we do it, you know, 40 hours a week.

“The people who took this person on board made it a lot more difficult than it should have been,” says Steve Cowell, an independent aviation safety consultant.

Cowell points out that Glasbergen is placed in a seat with a fixed armrest. This requires workers to hoist it onto the armrest rather than sliding it from seat to seat.

“First, it’s uncomfortable for the passenger,” Cowell says. “Number two…it could pose a security hazard if anything happened to this flight.”

He says a major problem is the lack of industry-wide training standards for people who serve people with disabilities. The Air Carrier Access Act, ACAA, which sets out the rights of persons with disabilities on board aircraft, is too vague.

“There is no coordination between government agencies and airlines,” adds Cowell. “And the government does not want to write specific training standards because of the liability, the government could be held responsible. And this is one of the biggest fears of the federal government in any regulation it proposes. »

United Airlines contractor G2 Secure Staff did not reveal any details about its training, saying it was “proprietary and confidential”.

“It’s not exclusive,” Cowell said. “The reason they don’t want you to know is because they don’t want to be embarrassed, they don’t want the general public to be outraged at the genuine lack of training.”

“It’s a big concern,” says investigator Barbara Page of the nonprofit Disability Rights Florida. “If airlines don’t all train employees the same way and there isn’t a standard training protocol on how to help passengers, then how would anyone know what to do? wait and even the best day in the best circumstances?

I sent Glasbergen’s video to the US Department of Transportation and asked if their experience met ACAA standards. They will not comment on “the merits of cases that are or may be brought before the Investigations Department”.

But I found that the DOT fined United Airlines $2 million for ACAA violations in 2016, including failing to “provide passengers with disabilities with boarding and disembarking assistance.”

In its report, the DOT says it investigated, “due to a significant increase in the number of disability-related complaints the carrier received directly from consumers.”

Return flight from Glasenberg on another airline – Air Canada – was better.
He says the wheelchair attendants with another contractor – not G2 – were prepared.

I contacted G2 Secure Staff to follow up on their response that Glasbergen was comfortable during their transfer and the formation of the company. They responded with an email saying they would look into it and get back to me.

I also contacted United to find out why Glasbergen was in a fixed seat. No answer.

That’s part of why Glasbergen says he continues to fight for consistent care in the air, even if that means recording and posting all of his transfers for all to see.

This story is not just about Glasbergen. There are over 3 million people in the United States who use wheelchairs. And one in seven people have difficulty getting around. That’s over 47 million people and that number is expected to grow.

Read the first part of this survey here.

If you want me to study something, write to me at [email protected]

Copyright 2022 Fort Myers Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without prior written permission.

About Antoine L. Cassell

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