It was supposed to be a vacation of a lifetime for Jane Gray — a trip from Southwest England, where she lives, to Maui.
But it ended in disaster when Alaska Airlines damaged her wheelchair on a connecting flight between California and Hawaii. And even though Alaska repaired her wheelchair and offered a flight voucher and eventually, cash compensation, it’s not enough. She wants my help.
Before I get to her disagreement with Alaska, here’s a little background: Gray has secondary progressive Multiple Sclerosis and depends on a customized wheelchair to get around. Before flying to Hawaii, she asked her travel agent for information about how to travel with her wheelchair, and was told the necessary arrangements could be made.
That didn’t happen.
“Unfortunately, the chair was not correctly stored in the hold as the ground crew were desperate to meet the flight deadline,” she says. “They had laid my chair on its side as I subsequently found out on my arrival in Maui when it came out of the hold in bits. I was actually able to witness this as my seat was directly over the hold.”
Needless to say, the trip didn’t go as planned.
As a result of the damage to my wheelchair, the brake had been broken and could not be disengaged to enable my carer to take control of the chair. In addition the specially added feature of ‘carer controls’, were also damaged, leaving it impossible for her to take control of the chair as is necessary after a few hours of use by myself, due to the limitations of my illness.
In addition to this, the headrest attachment had been broken.
I could only venture out for approximately one hour at a time and was unable to go further than the hotel restaurant for dinner, for the entire holiday. I missed out on all the activities I had planned, causing great misery knowing the entire trip had become pointless.
An Alaska representative assured Gray that the airline took incidents like this “very seriously” and would do everything it could to make things right. But when Gray returned to the U.K., Alaska only offered to repair her wheelchair and offer her a $400 voucher.
Appeals to management were partially successful. Alaska upped its compensation offer from a credit to $500 cash.
But Gray was still unhappy. She’d paid nearly £6,000 for her vacation, and had been unable to enjoy it as a direct result of what she says was Alaska’s negligence. What’s more, the airline didn’t do what it had promised, which was to do everything it could to make things right.
But Alaska says it’s done enough. Here’s what a supervisor wrote to her after she appealed her case.
While I certainly apologize for any disappointment you experienced, we must respectfully deny your request to have your vacation reimbursed and for additional consideration in this matter.