First trip with powerchair and airline broke it!

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#1
Hotlanta GA
881 Posts
Joined Aug 2007
We took DH's powerchair on a trip from Atlanta to Maine, our first time flying with it. Normally, we just take the manual chair on trips, but DH's mobility is getting worse, and we were able to rent an accessible van in New England.

The logistics worked very well for us - preboarding with the aisle chair was handled with great care by staff at all points, and Airtran upgraded us for both legs of the flight home rather than seat DH and me separately in middle seats. (They did this at the gate, I think after seeing that he really is disabled.) All that was way better than I'd feared.

The bad news was that the chair was delivered at the end of our return flight home in inoperable condition. Somehow they had broken off the bracket connecting the steering arm to the seat, and that arm was just flying loose. With help from a very nice porter, we were able to tie it back into semi-stable position using the van ties and the seat belt. And Airtran called the next day, apologized, and readily agreed to the cost of in-home repair by our normal servicing vendor, and the cost of a rental wheelchair if the repair can't be done on the spot.

So we're fine. But it makes me fearful about flying with the chair again. We did what was recommended on here and took all the detachable parts with us. Still, this happened. Just bad beginner's luck, or are there any tips to keeping a chair safe? He has an Invacare TDX SP, which I think is pretty standard, with no special features.

We're doing a TA in November, and were planning to take the powerchair, but it would stink to have this happen at the start of a cruise in another country!
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#2
AR
2,718 Posts
Joined May 2010
I am so sorry this happened to you.
People post of never having a problem, but I have a great fear of it.

I always drive to the port, from Arkansas.
I am booked on HAL's round trip from FLL to Spain, Italy, etc in 2013.
With my wife and power chair.

Most ports in FL provide free parking for handicap vehicles, if they have built in lifts or ramps.

If you fly again, odds are in your favor. Best of luck and good cruising.
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#3
203 Posts
Joined Jan 2010
I have flown with my scooter many times now and, thankfully no damage. Is there a way to add extra padding or support to that piece just before getting on the plane? I don't know if you could take a bubble wrap sleeve and tape it to the thing along with a small piece of board to give it more support and protection from bumps and things during travel?

Just some random thoughts.

I know of a site called Disboards that has a lot of people on there that travel with power chairs that might be able to give more ideas. It is www.wdwinfo.com. There is a disabilities section on their forum.
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#4
6,358 Posts
Joined May 2009
I leave my scooter at home and rent one from CareVacations when cruising. I'm more dependent on wheelchair assistance from the airline and from the cruiseline but have peace of mind . I generally have it delivered to the pre-cruise hotel so I than have it for boarding .
#5
Moon Township, Pa
23,137 Posts
Joined Oct 2000
I'm so sorry this happened to you. I had a similar problem with Delta when they managed to break the tiller arm on my scooter.

At least they stepped up and paid for everything.
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#6
Pittsburgh, PA
3,019 Posts
Joined Jul 2008
That is one of the main reasons we do not fly with DW's scooter. We flew with it to Santa Domingo a few years back and not only did the chair arrive with many more scratches, but we had the key broken off in the ignition as well as the access door sing being damaged. Now when we fly, we rent and when we drive we take. The other issue is what happens of there is a mechanical difficulty upon arrival and you have no way to repair or get it repaired? Yes, it is an expense but we feel must more at ease.
#7
houston
245 Posts
Joined Mar 2009
Continental destroyed my partners chair from Houston to Seattle when we were going on a HAL Alaskan cruise. We had to rent a chair quickly in Seattle which Continental paid for and then they had to pay over $ 8500 to repair the chair and replace the EW-motion power assist wheels...so it was a costly mistake for them....even though it took them 4 months to pay the repair shop so they could do the repairs.

You would think it would be much cheaper to train their people how not to destroy people's mobility devices rather than keep paying out for repairs like this.
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#8
Virginia
655 Posts
Joined Feb 2009
When we flew with our daughter last fall we literally took her chair completely apart. We asked the man who serviced it how to do it, and we had a bag to carry on all the parts we took off. If you can't do that, at a minimum, disconnect the power to the chair. I wouldn't trust the airline employees to move the chair in anything but manual mode.
This is a great forum with lots of suggestions:
http://sci.rutgers.edu/forum/archive...p/t-35388.html
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#9
Irwin, PA
344 Posts
Joined Aug 2009
My husband & I drive everywhere with his chair.....i am afraid of what might happen on the airplane...i was told to make sure to take off the joystick...
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#10
852 Posts
Joined Jan 2003
Unfortunately we've had airlines break our son's powerchair 3 times in the last few years. This past year we bubblewrapped many parts, took off and carried on others. So what did they do -- they broke the metal parts holding up the back so that it couldn't stay up. Thank heavens we caught the problem before we transferred him into the chair or he would have tumbled onto the floor. The airline arranged to have it welded. Took a few months to get the chair back -- thank heavens he had an old chair to use as a back-up.
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#11
Virginia
655 Posts
Joined Feb 2009
Our wheelchair repairman told us a story about a customer of his whose wheelchair basically was demolished by an airline. He wanted a new chair and the airline told him they would repair it. He had no other chair and needed a custom chair to do anything. He called the local news station consumer dept and they came down. Amazing-he got a new chair!
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#12
6,358 Posts
Joined May 2009
Originally posted by susiecreamchs
Our wheelchair repairman told us a story about a customer of his whose wheelchair basically was demolished by an airline. He wanted a new chair and the airline told him they would repair it. He had no other chair and needed a custom chair to do anything. He called the local news station consumer dept and they came down. Amazing-he got a new chair!
Glad to hear the the news station intervened to make things right for your friend.

I have a firend whose mobility scooter was damaged by the airlines . The airlines attempted to have it repair but the repair person advised it couldn't be done so airlines bought her new scooter identical to the one that was damaged. Her boyfriend instructed the airlines to return the damaged one as it could be used for repair parts if needed in the future which the airlines did. Well her boyfriend is a mechanic and after completely disassembling the damaged non-repairable scooter spending numerous hours checking and cleaning eveything , he found that a wire had come disconnected in flight which he was able to fix it. Something he said the airline repair place should have been able to do but probably choose not to due to the man hours involved to find the actual problem. She now has 2 working scooters. Bottom line you just don't know how the airlines makes its determination to repair or replace.
#13
San Diego
108 Posts
Joined Mar 2009
It is my understanding that per the A.D.A. if the chair/scooter can not be easily and promptly repaired the airlines are required to buy you a new one of equal quality.

Either way I always take off the joy stick and stress out waiting for my chair to be returned in workable condition.
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#14
Hotlanta GA
881 Posts
Joined Aug 2007
I have seen the advice to leave the chair in manual mode, but I think that may have been the problem. We gave the chair to them at each stop in power mode, and it always came back in manual mode. If it was left unsecured in manual mode in the hold, wouldn't it have rolled all over the place?

Does anyone know how how airlines secure powerchairs in the luggage compartment?
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#15
Hotlanta GA
881 Posts
Joined Aug 2007
Also, the vendor came to inspect it yesterday, and called today with the price - $550 plus service call costs. I'm pretty sure that a wheelchair tie-down system like we have in our van would pay off for the airlines!
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#16
6,358 Posts
Joined May 2009
Originally posted by GRBlizz
Also, the vendor came to inspect it yesterday, and called today with the price - $550 plus service call costs. I'm pretty sure that a wheelchair tie-down system like we have in our van would pay off for the airlines!
Hope it doesn't take long for your chair to be repaired and it meets your satisfaction.

A wheelchair Tie-Down system would be nice but than on the the flip side of that would the airlines begin limiting the amount of wheelchairs and or mobility scooters on each flight because there are not enough Tie-Downs per plane ??? There has to be a better system for securing these in the hull of the plane but what exactly that is is still yet to be determined.

Though I have never transported my mobility scooter on a plane , I have been told and also read on this forum that complete instructions of how to transport the scooter in neutral mode and how than to lock it in drive once on the plane ( than the reverse for removal from the plane) should be clearly affixed to wheelchair or mobility scooter. Though this still does not mean it won't get damaged but hopefully it will minimize the amount that do.
#17
Hotlanta GA
881 Posts
Joined Aug 2007
The instruction idea is a good one; I will definitely do that.
I have also decided after reading this that we will definitely rent on our TA from Barcelona. We'll also take the manual to get from here to there, and for ports. I hope they rent powerchairs, not just scooters, as DH's leg stiffness makes using a scooter challenging.

Appreciate everyone's help.
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#18
MB, Canada
11,100 Posts
Joined Jun 2002
I would remove the steering box from the chair when flying and bring it on board with you. It is not extra as it is part of the chair.

I bring in my cushion and basket from my scooter as they have been lost broken before. The crew is very good with these items.
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#19
Hotlanta GA
881 Posts
Joined Aug 2007
Our chair received body damage (where arm and back connect), and I'm sure it was because the chair was left in manual mode and just rolled around willy-nilly. I would rather let them drive it and leave it in drive than make them use it only in manual mode. Seems safer.
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#20
west central florida
677 Posts
Joined Jun 2007
hi all,

while i've come to the party a little late, i've been pondering whether i should say anything at all. you see, i'm a former leader ramp agent. my job was to ground handle the aircraft that you were either boarding or disembarking. not only did i have to load and unload your baggage, but for international flights...freight as well. for domestic flights, our 'goal' was a 12 minute unload/load cycle. on certain days, we were to 'turn around' an aircraft in 30 mins or less. next time you fly, watch how they're loading the plane. you start with the forward and aft bins that are closest to the root of the wing. weight and balance are important. the process of loading/unloading is fast and furious...the customers complain...or used to, when their baggage isn't at the carousel when they arrive. speed is not conducive to careful handling...think ox cart in a china shop. if your power chair or scooter is one of the first items loaded, it will get other bags packed on, around, and above it. the bins will be filled. instructions? folks, only once in a while do they have time to read them. if your equipment is one of the last items loaded, yes, it might roll around a bit, but they do their best to jam someone else's bags into it to stop it.

everybody's stuff is important...mobility equipment even more so. many of you know that most mobility equipment is feature-unique that even in the same product line, how you engage or disengage the drive system can be different. and as someone noted, there are more pieces of mobility machines traveling than ever before. so i ask you, how are the ramp agents supposed to know? wanna bring ada into the equation? a friend of mine is always telling me to be careful of what i ask for...i just might get it in spades. meaning, not the solution that i was asking for.

by trade, i'm now a 'tron-chaser, i work with electricity and electronics. i'm also sensitive to the needs of hc mobility, why? 'cause i take care of the electronic motor controller in an invicare pronto chair for a family member. i see the flaws in the current and past designs. wanna see what others will eventually tumble onto? try this on for size:

1. the battery system has no fail-safe, no non-shortable disconnect. motor controllers, in the past and even now, control how much electric current sees the negative side of the battery. problem? the motor wiring stays 'hot'. a simple short in the wiring can cause a fire in the bagguage compartment. turning off the key system doesn't change this energy state.

2. current scooter and power chair designs are made for your comfort, your styling choice, and your price point. they weren't made for ardous travel requirements. meaning that there is a certain amount of fragility to every mobility device out there. so, why would you surrender something so fragile and yet, so important to your personal freedom to someone who's job is to get the plane loaded as fast as possible? think about it. can you get your scooter or chair into your personal vehicle without the aid of a lift? no, you bought one didn't you! how dumb is a design that puts an expensive piece of equipment outside a protective enclosure attached to the towing hitch, exposed to weather and rear-end accidents? in our own way, we are just as careless as those who serve us. we do it out of necessity...so do they.

if you are like me, you want to see this paradigm change. i don't pretend to have answers to your experiences, but i do say that we can change how things are built by demanding with our checkbooks how mobility designs are done. we put men on the moon. we got them there via a command module that was the size of a short closet...with everything they needed to survive. so why can't we get mobility designs that are travel hardened, compact, lightweight and powerful? why can't we get mobility designs that are self-safing? meaning when it is shutdown...it is truly shutdown and not a fire hazard on an airline flight.

here's a laundry list of things i'd like to see in smart design:

1. universal standards for drive safing.
2. universal standards for battery/electrical safing.
3. strong, folding scooter designs that harden and secure themselves.
4. power chair designs that harden and secure delicate seating and control components. why give someone the opportunity to break something if it can be 'cocooned' while in transit.
5. universal use of lightweight carbon fiber and other super-strong materials for main body, control arms and shrouding construction.
6. the use of high-power battery/super capacitor power supplies that are much lighter in weight.

why should we need a lift or crane to move the mobility equipment around?

i don't have a short term solution, but the long term answer is going to be up to the hc community. please, i'm not asking for flames...i am saying to start demanding the future, now. please feel free to copy, paste and add your own desires to the list.

travel is freedom, mobility shouldn't be a limitation on that freedom.

moose
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