Thursday, May 28, 2009

"Happy" Jetting, Indeed

So, Needlenoggin had a seat on a 12:30 flight out of our local airport to go to SoCal yesterday. He was going to go visit my parents for a few days and head out to the Abilities Expo. It was going to be a nice break for everyone involved.

We printed out his boarding pass in the morning, and couldn't indicate that he had a bag to check and a wheelchair to gate-check on the form, so I called. Having cleared that up, I was told he'd only have to ask for help getting his bag to the bag drop and getting through security. He's flown once now in the chair, and we thought we had this down. So, the boarding pass says "Boarding begins at noon." Cool.

We drove to the airport, and the area near the Jet Blue terminal was under construction, so we head to drive 1/3 the length of the airport to get to a curb. Fine. Then, we had to wait for the disabled drop-off spot as a limo and a MILITARY vehicle (neither discharging disabled passengers or with placards, just to make it clear), unloaded in the spot first. Fine. Once we got in the spot, we got Needlenoggin out and into his wheelchair, and realized that I couldn't park (loading zone, dontcha know?), but that he had nearly a block to travel to get his bag to the Jet Blue counter. It was now noon. Hmmm.

We asked a few of the security people what to do, and TWO of them promised to run to Jet Blue and get a skycap. Then they wandered off. So, I attached his bag to the back of his wheelchair with a bungie cord, gave him a hug, and he lugged his bag and carryon all the way to the counter. He handed in his bag at 12:09, and explained that he'd had to pull it all the way here, which hadn't been easy, and that his plane was leaving at 12:30. There wasn't a huge long security line, and the people at the counter told him (an exhausted, frustrated kid in a wheelchair) to "hurry."

He did. He got through the security check-points, and then ALL THE WAY to his gate by 12:22. Not bad, considering he isn't a racer, and how much work pushing is on carpet. And you know what? They'd left without him. The plane had left at 12:20, even though he'd arrived and turned in his luggage and should have had an escort (we were promised one the last time he flew Jet Blue). So, they'd known he was on his way, had taken his luggage and put it onboard and LEFT EARLY...

Let me make this clear...had someone been able/willing to help him with his bags (or had there been a way to drop him off next to JetBlue), he'd have been fine. Had they helped him through security (a longer process in a wheelchair that involves getting wanded), he'd have been fine. If someone had been dispatched to help him get to his gate across the terminal quicker, he'd have been fine. If the plane had left at its designated time, or even only 5 minutes early, he'd have been fine. IF THE CHECK-IN PEOPLE HAD JUST CALLED THE GATE AND LET THEM KNOW HE WAS COMING, he'd have been fine. But they did none of this.

Ad what was their solution? "The next flight with open seats is at 5pm. I'd suggest you hop in your car and drive to San Jose airport (an hour from us), and get on the 3:45 flight there." No apologies. When he explained that he had no car and couldn't drive (and that he wasn't good with any kind of hopping, really), he was told to make up his mind about whether he was getting on the 5pm flight or not.

Now, I was at home, revising my LAST paper of the semester that needed to be submitted by 2. He calls, and we get into this whirlwind, and realize that by the time I get done, get him, get him home and calmed down, it'll be time to go back to the airport, which he isn't willing to do. He wants to take a cab home and cancel his trip altogether. I want them to put him on the next flight.

Finally, my parents get on the phone with the head person at the airport for Jet Blue, who offers to buy Needlenoggin lunch while he waits for 5 hours at the airport. He consents, plays his DS for five hours, and gets on the plane to SoCal.

I'm FURIOUS. This is no way to treat any passenger, much less a disabled one who got to the plane on time AND requested assistance. If you'd like to help me vent my frustrations, here is the contact #:

JetBlue Corporate: 1800-Jet-Blue
The "Report a Problem" web-page is here

Or, if you want to send it the old-fashioned way:

Jet BlueCorporate Headquarters
118-29 Queens Blvd.
Forest Hills, NY 11375


Jet Blue
c/o Oakland Airport
1 Airport Drive
Oakland, CA 94621

They ask for some basic flight info, so:
Confirmation # E511BQ
Out of Oakland
To Long Beach
Yesterday at 12:30 (!!!)

In their Bill of Rights it says (in the section on over-booking) that passengers "who are involuntarily denied boarding shall receive $1,000." I think his flight home should at least be free. ::grump::