but I felt I needed to make public the treatment from United Airlines today. The following is the email I sent to their customer service department. If I do not hear back soon, well... I think I make it clear in my email.
I am writing to complain about the treatment I received by your agents before I even boarded the plane. I fly frequently, but have never been forced to pay for having medical issues. Today and your airline marks the first time.
I was born with Cystic Fibrosis, a medical condition that requires me to follow an intensive medical regimine. To go on a five day trip, like I did today, I have to carry several bottles of pils to accommodate the fifty pills that I take a day. I carry a compressor, several nebulizers, and a small cooler for my inhaled medications. I also carry a large medical device, called a vest, that I must use twice a day. All of these items take up a significant amount of room. My vest alone is a large carryon item, one that I can not use for other items, medical or personal. This leaves me to use an additional carry on for all of my other medical items and, if I am only going away for a short time, my personal items as well.
My husband and I arrived at the Eugene airport with our bags. We have used these bags previously on United as a gate check and have never encountered a problem. In the past when the number and size of our bags has been questioned, a quick explination of my medical needs was all that was needed. This time proved very differently, and was the first time that I have ever seen my legal rights as a medically handicapped person infringed upon.
My husband and I were approached at the gate over the size of our bags. I explained that two of them included medical equipment, which is why I had them my possesion. The gate agent repeated that they were too large to carry on and they must be checked. I simply refuse to check medical equipment as a rule and am in my legal rights to do so. Upon further pushing, I conceded that the bags could be checked, but charging me to do so could be grounds for a disability lawsuit. The gate agent rudely informed me that I did not need to go to that point. I have never been rudely informed like that when standing up for my rights.
The gate agent called over her supervisor, Ted Dewey. Ted informed me that the bags must be checked because they included personal items. This brings up a number of issues. First, my bag would not be as large, without the medical equipment. Secondly, I have always had my first bag fee waived by other airlines that realize my medical equipment is what pushes me over. They are willing to accomodate me, and follow the laws set up to protect me. Ted was unwilling to do so. He offered to bring me a bag out of their storage for my medical equipment, but this was not a feasible solution for a number of reasons. First, I did not feel comfortable unpacking my bag in the terminal. It is carefully paked to protect my medical and personal items. Second, I would still have the large bag in question, now poorly packed lending my personal items to damage, and I would still have to pay the fee, as Ted informed me he didn't have to make any accomodation for my personal items. However, again, these personal items would not be an issue, if it were not for my medical equipment. Ted semmed oblivious to this issue. Thirdly, by being asked to unpack in the terminal, I felt as if I was being asked to prove my condition. When you don't look sick, people in authority often feel the need to have sickness proven to them.
My husband and I feel like we have been discriminated against. We know that the lack of accomodation is grounds for an ADA lawsuit. Not being litigous, we wish to avoid that, but are willing to take nescisary steps to ensure that we are compensated for our baggage fees, and the time it takes to reach a resolution on this issue. Fair compensation, at this time, would be a full refond of our baggage fees, which will total $80 after our return flight on Sunday. We are uninterested in vouchers for future travel, as we are unwilling to fly an airline that breaks laws to make a dime off of the disabled. Also, we may take our story to the media, as we feel that other people should be informed at how far United will go to make money. I was reminded at how greedy an airline could be when Ted informed me that accomodating a bag could lead to $100 price hikes, and I should feel lucky that I only was paying $20 a bag. Amazing how that doesn't add up, but little in this day did.