We’ve flown a handful of places now, and every single trip our child’s wheelchair has taken a hit.
In some cases we got lucky and it was merely cosmetic damage.
In this last trip his wheelchair was actually crushed rendering it useless at the gate.
Each time regardless of the amount of damage, I think my jaw actually hits the floor.
How can airlines be so reckless with equipment that is worth thousands of dollars?
Sometimes I wonder if they think they can bank on the fact that we’re really in a travel rush and only have sometimes a limited amount of time to get to our next gate or destination that we’ll miss the claim filing window deadline and they won’t have to be held accountable for their mishandling of these precious pieces of equipment.
Traveling with a wheelchair that folds down, taking off all accessories that have the potential of being damaged and putting them in a carry-on bag, taking a one-piece wheelchair…and mind you I’m terrified to even consider the power wheelchair.
No matter how I go about it, they just cannot spare any wheelchair we take.
Thankfully, on our last trip we had arrived home and just had to find a way to tote our non-ambulatory son over one shoulder, keep track of a wondering typical child, drag a broken wheelchair and seven bags of luggage and medical supplies and two carseats through the airport to meet our ride home.
Still we were left with the fact that we didn’t have a functioning wheelchair.
Although I was thankful it happened on the way home and not on the way to our destination I thought there has to be options for those of us dealing with severely broken wheelchairs as a result of an airline while traveling.
What do we do in the interim while we’re attempting repair or in many cases replacement?
While all made good on damages and repairs they all had a different approach.
With British Airlines for example you simply report the damage and ask your local DME (Durable Medical Equipment) provider for a price quote on the damage.
The airline will send you a check in which you turn over to the DME or cash to pay for the repairs.
Southwest airlines for instance contracts with a company called Global Repair Group.
They step in after you file a damage claim and will coordinate all the details of your repair or replacement for you, right down to sending their own technician out to your home to evaluate damage and to conduct all necessary repairs.
Global Repair Group will also coordinate the use of a rental wheelchair in the interim should your wheelchair be deemed a complete loss and require full replacement, as it did in our case.
A rented wheelchair was overnighted by way of Fed Ex, and then picked up after the new wheelchair had been custom built and replaced.
The rented wheelchair is then again picked up by Fed Ex at your home and shipped back.
I wish I would have had this crucial bit of knowledge on my previous flying experiences with our child especially should we have been in a different state or country without a functioning wheelchair as a result of an airline’s abuse of a wheelchair.
Now that’s not necessarily going to help you get out of the gate or terminal very easily – especially if you have a custom wheelchair with specialized supports, but to know that your trip may not be completely ruined entirely without having a functional wheelchair.
If you are traveling with a wheelchair don’t hesitate to ask an airline who they work with in advance in the event that there is wheelchair damage, it may influence your decision on who you chose to fly with depending on how they go about handling any potential damage that could occur.
And no matter what in the end make sure you take a deep breath, because if you’re anything like me it can make your heart sink and your stomach drop when they bring that wheelchair up to the gate crumpled…
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