One US Air Force veteran said he suffered from excruciating pain while flying United because there was no wheelchair service ready even after his wife requested service well before their travel dates. The veteran is now hoping United Airlines works with its contractor, ABM, to make service more bearable for people with disabilities.
Doug Strand has seen a thing or two serving this country. He joined the U.S. Air Force in 1977.
“34 years and retired as a colonel,” Strand said.
However, what this airman experienced at the airport literally brought him severe pain.
“I have Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS),” Strand said.
CRPS is an oftentimes debilitating severe and chronic pain condition. Strand said he got it after a line of duty injury in 2008. When flying United, he and his wife said they make sure to prepare and communicate early, letting the airline know his needs for a wheelchair and service. Strand said his wife weighs 100 lbs and cannot physically push him through steep ramps as Strand weighs 230 lbs.
“We always make reservations well in advance and let them know I’m disabled and need a wheelchair. So, typically, we get off a plane and there are wheelchairs waiting and somebody ready to assist. This time, it didn’t happen that way,” Strand said.
Their first experience on the trip, flying United from IAH airport in Houston to his father-in-law’s funeral in Norfolk, VA, they waited.
“45 minutes and nobody came to pick me up in a wheelchair. So my wife went to go find a wheelchair. She weighs 100 lbs; I weigh 230,” Strand said.
Strand said after 45 minutes a person came with a wheelchair but only took him to the TSA entrance. His wife he said had to take him through security, pushing him and two luggage to make their flight.
“She was in bed for like a day and a half--couldn’t get up!” Strand said.
However, that wasn’t the worst of it, Strand said. On their way back to Houston at their stopover at Dulles, Strand was forced to wait on the floor of the jetway for service. It did not come until another 45 minutes.
“Here I am...there’s the plane. My connecting flight leaves in about 30 minutes. I don’t know if I’m going to make it,” Strand said in a video he posted on Twitter of him sitting on the floor od the jetway at Dulles Airport in Dulles, VA.
“I’m sitting there kind of spazzing out, the pain was getting worse and worse,” Strand said.
His anxiety, he said, worsened the pain. His meds were with his wife who was outside the jetway at that point. He had to sit. He said the United agents did very little and instead pointed fingers at the contracting service, ABM, the vendor who provides the wheelchair service.
“They called the contractors 3-4 times, and they just waved their hands up,” Strand said.
United Airlines told KPRC, “This is not the experience we want for our customers and we are reaching out to Mr. Strand as well as the vendor who provides wheelchair service to understand what happened.”
However, strand said, their explanation is not enough.
“They knew I was coming!” Strand said.
Strand said after posting his video, he learned that others experienced worse.
“These people--a lot of people like myself, suffer,” Strand said. “We know this is happening to other people, and we want to make sure this problem gets fixed.”
He said United Airlines offered him 5,000 free points, but he said the issue is worth more than points.
“They need to take disabled people seriously and make sure that they’re there... And they can get off that plane knowing that that chair is going to be there waiting for them,” he said
KPRC 2 reached out to ABM and has yet to hear back.
You can view Strand’s full Twitter video on @ColDougStrand : https://twitter.com/coldougstrand/status/1393217836198334466?s=21