by Joy Loverde
I’m angry, VERY angry… at one person in particular at American Airlines. I do not know her name and in retrospect I should have written it down. The best I can do to communicate with American Airline management is to write about my recent experience at the Phoenix airport.
It all began when Mom, my husband and I arrived at the airport to make our way back home to Chicago. Mom is 87 and takes pride in the fact that she works out on the treadmill several days a week. Her legs are strong, her breathing is good, and she tells me she feels great. Even so, I asked her if she wanted a wheelchair to take her to the boarding gate. She proudly said, “No, I can walk.”
Turns out the gate was a lot farther than she thought. When we arrived at the gate area, Mom was tired and worn out after her long walk, and her gait was wobbly and slow. Looking around for someplace to sit, Mom promptly plopped herself down in the special seating area that is reserved for passengers who need extra assistance. At this point, Mom clearly qualified for extra assistance.
Then the boarding agent began her typical announcements. Only there was a twist to this particular person’s intercom message. She said that if you arrived in a wheelchair and needed special assistance then you could board first. I helped Mom out of her seat and walked her over with the rest of the people waiting to board. The only difference is they were seated in wheelchairs. I didn’t think anything of it. Anyone observing Mom could see she was clearly in need of special assistance.
That’s when the boarding agent barked at Mom to step aside and wait her turn. I told the agent Mom needed special assistance, and again the agent raised her voice at me and said Mom is not getting any special consideration. I explained to the agent that Mom chose to walk and is not doing well. The agent held her ground - no wheelchair, no special treatment. “Wait your turn,” she commanded. In other words, Mom got penalized for walking to the gate.
I travel around the world on a regular basis, and in all other countries the elders are treated with dignity and respect. American Airlines, why don’t you consider sensitivity training for agents who work in the boarding area? On the other hand, here is my personal message to the boarding agent... Someday, you will be old, and I hope you are treated better than the way you treated my mother.