Traveling with Special Needs and Dealing with Ignorance

This is a letter sent to Emirates Airlines regarding Wawoo’s and my experience flying to and from India. It is never easy to travel with her but a little compassion can go a long way.

 

Hello,

 My name is Sundari Greene I traveled to and from India on your airline. Leaving the 8th of Dec and coming back the 31st. My confirmation code was D*****.
I traveled with my daughter, Radhika Greene, who is 6 years old. She is also disabled. She has quadriplegic Athetoid Cerebral Palsy. She cannot walk, talk or even sit without support. We have traveled to and from India throughout her life on other airlines and are very used to dealing with her needs on an aircraft. 
From the very beginning of this trip we have dealt with ignorance and incompetence from your staff. I called months in advance and confirmed with the Representative on the phone that I had a special needs child who would be traveling with her personal wheelchair and that it would need to be left on the jetway upon entering the aircraft and that she would need it back at the aircraft door upon landing at each leg of the trip. I was informed that it had been noted in our file.
When we traveled we had no issues until we reached Dubai. At each leg of the trip I went to the gate agent and reminded them that I would be gate checking the wheelchair and would require it back at the end of the flight. When I got to Mumbai is was not there. When i inquired where it was I was informed that it had gone with the rest of the luggage and that it could not be brought back. They offered me an airport wheelchair for her. When I told them she could not sit without support and restraints the only option they offered was that I sit and hold her. We had to do this all through immigration and luggage retrieval.
My daughter has athetoid Cerebral Palsy. That means she has continual involuntary movements, her body becomes very stiff and difficult to hold for long periods of time. She is also very long and trying to provide support and at the same time keep her safe from falling out of my arms when her body jumps unexpectedly is very difficult and takes all of my strength and  continual readjustment. This is very taxing on my body and frankly, is unsafe. This is why she has an individualized wheelchair to meet her needs.
Then on the way back to the US on the 31st while I was checking in I spoke to your representative at the check in booth and explained what had happened. I expressed the absolute need of her wheelchair in Dubai as well as JFK. I went over it with him many times and even his supervisor. They assured me that it would be done properly. They even put the ticket on the wheelchair claiming it was done so that it would be brought to the aircraft both in Dubai and in JFK. Once I was through security and at the gate I spoke to that Agent as well to confirm a message was sent ahead regarding her wheelchair.
When we got to Dubai the wheelchair was not at the aircraft door. I asked the flight attendant to see what had happened. She was told the wheelchair had gone on with the rest of the cargo. They informed me it could not be brought back as it was against safety regulations. When I explained that I could not carry her to the next flight I was told she could use an airport wheelchair. I explained over and over that she could not sit on her own. I was asked ” to put her in the chair to see if it would work”. I had to explain our situation multiple times to a people who acted as if I was inconveniencing them. I was told that I could not sit in the wheelchair and hold her as it was against their regulations. By time they finally allowed me to sit and hold her and get on our way we only made it to the gate at the end of boarding. I had no time to feed my daughter or change her diaper,before a 14 hour flight, as I was sitting in the wheelchair just trying to control her movements and keep her safe. People were staring and pointing at us. This was very emotionally draining and humiliating for me. I had no help and rely on her chair to do the things that need to be done. It holds her in a comfortable and safe seated position while I feed, clean and care for her. By not having  the wheelchair I was unable to do any of those things. Having to carry her for such a long time was also physically taxing on my body. My neck and back are still in great pain from this whole ordeal. I ended up crying from the way I was treated in the Dubai airport. As if I had done something wrong and was an annoyance to everyone. I want to point out your flight attendants were very compassionate and tried their best to get her chair for her. The fault lies with the grounds crew, ticketing agents and gate agents.
When we landed in JFK her wheelchair arrived at the aircraft door damaged. I assume that you will compensate us for the repairs.
It is difficult enough traveling with a child with a disability, but to on top of that have these mistakes made despite my checking , double checking and triple checking is inexcusable.
I have flown with my daughter to India her entire life using other Major airlines and have never dealt with such a level of incompetence and lack of compassion and understanding for my daughter.
Also when I booked my tickets in October and explained to them that my daughter has a car seat to sit in the plane for safety reasons and that we needed bulkhead seating,I was told that those seats are reserved for parents with infants. Any other airline that I have flown has given me those seats, even changing my seats with someone else’s to accommodate my daughter’s special needs. I hope this opens your eyes about this and helps your airline meet other people with special circumstance’s needs with compassion and dignity.
I await your response.
 They have not replied yet beyond the automatically generated response.
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