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Disabled Passenger Flying with Dialysis Machine

Discussion in 'Airlines' started by DrCathy, Mar 17, 2017 at 10:07 AM.

  1. DrCathy

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    My husband is disabled (on dialysis) and travels with a portable dialysis machine and medical supplies.

    The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) have given notice to the airlines that they must permit a passenger to bring her or her portable dialysis machine onto the aircraft as checked luggage, and the carriers cannot impose a fee for the machine and cannot count it towards baggage limits. These rules are clarified here:

    http://www.homedialysis.org/documents/Portable_Dialysis_Machine_Notice.pdf

    We always call the carrier prior to our flight and have the disability desk agent note in our reservation that we will be bringing this along with other medical supplies. We usually get a huge hassle when checking in at the counter, but eventually get the machine and supplies checked without a fee. We have flown with the machine several times both domestically and internationally, but always on a U.S. based carrier (United mostly).

    We have a round trip flight EWR to GVA (direct), and return GVA to FRA to EWR. The entire flight itinerary was booked through United with all United flight numbers, but the return flights are operated by Lufthansa (but code shared with United).

    We are confident United will accept the machine on the outbound trip, as we have flown United before with our machine.

    But when we contacted Lufthansa special services (SPECIALSERVICE@dlh.de) they agreed to fly the machine for free, but want us to bring it on board as carry on baggage. They are saying that "baggage loader at the plane are not allowed to lift up more than 32 kg in one piece".

    This is simply impossible for us. In the carrying case, the machine is 57 cm by 47 cm by 51 cm and the weight is approximately 46 kg. There is no way that size luggage would be able to go anywhere in the cabin. We don't even know how we would get it through security and drag it to the gate!

    Two questions:
    1 - How do foreign carriers typically handle oversized/overweight luggage? Can Lufthansa simply say it is too big to fly?

    2 - Are foreign carriers obligated to follow the DOT rules if they are flying into the U.S. and the passenger booked the flight code shared by a U.S. based airline, specifically the rules for transporting our machine of that size?
     
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  2. johnbaker

    johnbaker Moderator
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    @DrCathy Yes, foreign carriers can refuse to transport overweight luggage. No, they are not required to follow US laws or rule even if its a code share.

    Save the email that they want you to fly it as cabin baggage and let them figure out where to store it on board.

    I'd reach out to UA special care desk (you seem to know the email) and let them know that LH is refusing to allow you to check your medical equipment. Since you are on a UA ticket and on UA flight numbers, they may have a solution. You might ask to be moved back to a UA flight. They're probably the best ones to help you find a solution.

    With an item over 100 lbs, you may not be able to transport it by aircraft if doing so violates European law.

    Good luck
     
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  3. DrCathy

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    Thanks John.

    I do know of a person who lives in Denmark and flies very often with the same machine and same case throughout Europe. He has used Lufthansa and they have flown his machine in checked baggage and no one brought up the weight issue with him.

    I am just trying to be proactive ahead of time to avoid problems at check in.

    Your idea is very good to see if they can move us back to a United flight. We booked the connection with Lufthansa because it was cheaper.

    Unfortunately, the United disability desk then told me some bad info. Last time I called they said that Lufthansa had to follow the DOT rules. I thought that sounded wrong....

    Which carriers are obligated to DOT rules - just those based in the U.S.? What about foreign carriers flying into the U.S.?
     
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  4. johnbaker

    johnbaker Moderator
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    @DrCathy My understanding (and I could be wrong) is that the airline has to follow DOT rules / US law on any flight that touches the US. Your issue would be the connection that starts the trip.
     
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  5. DrCathy

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    Got it. Thanks.
     
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  6. sas80

    Staff Member Advocate

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    I would take it one step further, email that same Lufthansa person, and clarify the dimensions of the object with them. Be specific about the dimensions and express your concerns about "where!? are they going to store it ON the plane?"

    Let the Lufthansa person answer that question and bring THAT with you.

    I would also arrive at the airport with 1.5 hours of extra time so they can sort out any potential mess way before your flight.

    Now that I have typed all of that, I might actually go ahead and write the first Lufthansa executive on the contact list explaining all of this and see what they say. See if you can get assurances from them, and then bring that with you as well.
     
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  7. Christina H

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    DR Cathy. I am perplexed at the response. I have taken the ewr FRA flight and depending on the plane there may be a closet that has room. Certainly not the in the overhead compartment.

    Why can they not have the cargo loaders put it on the plane? Instead of the passenger luggage loaders?

    I am also concerned about the Geneva Frankfurt flight which will be a narrow body airbus at best and there is no large closet for thr machine -- even worse not all gates at Geneva board through a jetway so it can be bus to the plane on tarmac and then stairs. I cannot imagine that being carried.

    LH takes large musical instruments up to 50 kilos. I really think you got someone that did not really read what you wrote. I would try again as this. People fly as couriers with bronze sculptures that weigh more and I know LH has accommodated them.
     
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  8. DrCathy

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    Thanks everyone!

    @sas80 - I have already supplied the exact dimensions and weight, but yes, that's a good idea to ask exactly where this would be stored. The flight GVA to FRA is showing an aircraft of CRJ-900 on our itinerary. No idea where they would put it for that leg.

    @Christina H - I think I'm getting the standard response from Lufthansa that baggage is normally limited to 32 kg. I was able to find on a Lufthansa web page that they will take items up to 52 kg (after registration and approval through their service center). However, they are showing a price of $400 which I'd like to avoid paying, especially since the DOT rules are that dialysis machines fly free. And thank you for the heads up about the the bus to the plane and then the stairs. That would be awful!

    https://www.lufthansa.com/us/en/Excess-baggage

    I think we will start with United and see if they will move us to their nonstop flight. If not, I will email the Lufthansa executive on the contact page.
     
    #8
  9. Algebralovr

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    If your disability warrents, they have lifts to get you on the plane rather than using the stairs. Our DD used one when in a wheelchair at Zurich. They kept our party together, so all 5 of us went up via the lift. Everyone else climbed the stairs after we were already aboard.
     
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  10. Christina H

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    Algebralovr I am glad that Zurich has the lift, I have only seen people carried by the transport chair up and down stairs- like paramedics do. Did you still have to take the bus? I cannot imagine the OP having to navigate the bus and security with the 46 kilo medical equipment, and where would it be put on a CRJ 900?

    I hope the OP can get a non stop flight back and not have a connection.
     
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  11. Algebralovr

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    In Zurich, the lift we took was a bus. We did not have to take a separate bus.
     
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