Avianca Airlines left disabled passenger alone in dark plane for over an hour

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Feb 16, 2019
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#22
some suggestions on what we should ask for from Avianca. I'm still not sure what, if anything we should ask for in compensation. … perhaps she's really not entitled to anything. But I still feel like Avianca itself holds some responsibility in just leaving her alone there for so long.
Since there are no specific financial damages (besides the extra shuttle cost), one option is to simply let them make "the opening bid" … lay out the basics of the situation, focusing on being left on the plane and barely making the next flight, along with the delay upon arrival. … it may merit a standard goodwill gesture … they know better than you what they are willing to offer. Ask for consideration for the trouble but don't specify an amount.

That said, you could start with the direct financial cost of the extra shuttle … though usually airlines don't accept responsibility for onward travel … for instance, if she had a separately-ticketed onward flight that she missed, most airlines would just say too bad.

Another possible approach is cribbing off European regulations … what would be the compensation for a 90+ minute flight delay if she was landing in Paris … as Bogota to Rio De Janeiro is approximately 4540 kilometers … EU compensation wouldn't kick in until the delay stretched to three hours. I doubt the airline would feel responsible for getting her to the hotel.

My guess is your best bet is on a "goodwill gesture" based on leaving her on the plane with a vague promise of sending someone … this would likely be a choice of a voucher or miles (not useless since you say she travels) … and you may get the best result if you let them surprise you with an offer … rather than struggling to fix a price on the distress yourselves. If it seems inadequate, you can always ask for more, at least knowing the rough scale of what they are willing to offer.
 
Apr 23, 2018
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#23
Regarding the cleaning crew ignoring the disabled passenger's pleas for help--we were not there and we are getting the story second-hand. Perhaps the cleaning crew did not speak English, and maybe the passenger did not speak Spanish--maybe the crew did notify the gate--we have no idea

It is an unfortunate event, but I do not see how Avianca is responsible. The flight crew was not trained to remove her safely from her seat; the cleaning crew was not able to physically help--and maybe they did call the gate for help; Avianca does not operate the accessible services at the airport.

Would it have been nice if a crew member had stayed with the passenger until accessible services arrived? Of course! Was it their responsibility to stay? No.
I'm not so sure about "No". Are there no laws or at least airline regulations REQUIRING the crew to ensure that everyone is off the plane before leaving themselves? I would think it's a security issue as well as a safety issue. I can't imagine any airline willfully allowing its employees to abandon one of its aircrafts leaving an unauthorized person aboard, regardless of gender, age, or physical condition. Avianca should be held accountable for getting this passenger safely ashore at the very least. If that means having a special lift on hand, so be it. (Service lifts might already have been present loading and unloading supplies.) This is a very serious issue.
 

Neil Maley

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www.promalvacations.com
#24
I'm not so sure about "No". Are there no laws or at least airline regulations REQUIRING the crew to ensure that everyone is off the plane before leaving themselves? I would think it's a security issue as well as a safety issue. I can't imagine any airline willfully allowing its employees to abandon one of its aircrafts leaving an unauthorized person aboard, regardless of gender, age, or physical condition. Avianca should be held accountable for getting this passenger safely ashore at the very least. If that means having a special lift on hand, so be it. (Service lifts might already have been present loading and unloading supplies.) This is a very serious issue.
This didn’t occur in the US. We don’t know what the laws are in other countries. It’s serious, I agree but we likely have no power other than recommending the passenger speaks to Avianca.It seems Avianca violated their own terms for disabled passengers:

https://www.avianca.com/co/en/before-your-trip/special-needs/special-assistance/

If this happened in the US if would be a DOT complaint for sure.
 
Likes: jsn55
Apr 23, 2018
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#25
This didn’t occur in the US. We don’t know what the laws are in other countries. It’s serious, I agree but we likely have no power other than recommending the passenger speaks to Avianca.It seems Avianca violated their own terms for disabled passengers:

https://www.avianca.com/co/en/before-your-trip/special-needs/special-assistance/

If this happened in the US if would be a DOT complaint for sure.
I agree, Neil. My point is that, somehow or other, Avianca should not be allowed to get away with something as diabolical as this ever again. Either that or they must refuse to sell seats to passengers with mobility disabilities (equally diabolical, IMO).
 
Sep 19, 2015
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I agree, Neil. My point is that, somehow or other, Avianca should not be allowed to get away with something as diabolical as this ever again. Either that or they must refuse to sell seats to passengers with mobility disabilities (equally diabolical, IMO).
I have mentioned several times that I think this was a serious security risk and lapse in service. But to call it diabolical...

Colombia has some wonderful areas and people. But the laws and standards there are quite different. There are still no laws mandating accessibility to public buildings. This is a country that has had a many decades long internal armed conflict ( one reason I think this was such a security lapse).

Other mobility disabled travel sites have mentioned the wait for tarmac lifts. The lifts exist but may be in use. The airport is not the most advanced when it comes to accessibility for disabled travel.

The OP and her friend should write to Avianca and the airport and the service should improve. But one has to acknowledge that the laws and standards are different in other countries, particularly those that have had internal armed conflicts and /or economically lesser developed.
 
Apr 23, 2018
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#27
I agree with everything you said, Christina H. But I believe we can leave differing countries, customs, laws, and security procedures, aside. This falls on the airline, and Avianca is an international airline that flies to all sorts of different countries. My point is simple, airlines should require that at least one employee be on board whenever a passenger is on board. This would mean that at least one employee -fight crew, cabin crew, gate crew or ground crew - should be on board until the last passenger safely deplanes into the terminal. If "diabolical" for not requiring this is too strong a word, I will settle for"unconscionable." But not one syllable softer. Honestly, I don't know how airline executives can sleep without such a rule in place. What if, heaven forbid, a passenger where to die when they were suffering this enforced solitude? I reckon the airline would be in a heap of trouble.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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I agree with everything you said, Christina H. But I believe we can leave differing countries, customs, laws, and security procedures, aside. This falls on the airline, and Avianca is an international airline that flies to all sorts of different countries. My point is simple, airlines should require that at least one employee be on board whenever a passenger is on board. This would mean that at least one employee -fight crew, cabin crew, gate crew or ground crew - should be on board until the last passenger safely deplanes into the terminal. If "diabolical" for not requiring this is too strong a word, I will settle for"unconscionable." But not one syllable softer. Honestly, I don't know how airline executives can sleep without such a rule in place. What if, heaven forbid, a passenger where to die when they were suffering this enforced solitude? I reckon the airline would be in a heap of trouble.
In most countries it is not allowed for the crew to leave with a passenger still on board. I know from a friend who had to have a lift on a tarmac disembark that it took a while for the lift to come but she was not left alone -- but this was in the UK.

Perhaps the OP should mention to her friend that it may be worthwhile to look into complaining to the Civil Aviation Regulatory Agency in Colombia -- and mention this as a security risk. If there is no specific legislation for the disabled, another way to approach this may be from the angle of aviation safety and security. That may be one way to make sure this does not happen again.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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#29
This situation, as described, was awful. Period. It was not diabolical, illegal, evil ... it was a competence issue. The ground crew didn't come out to the plane for an hour, the cabin crew left without checking with her, the cleaning people didn't help her, and it took them a long time to find her scooter. She had to pay for a private shuttle instead of a shared one. Our traveller was very experienced and competent. She should ask the airline to take steps to make sure this never happens again to another passenger with mobility issues. I agree with the earlier advice to ask for a goodwill gesture.
 
Likes: LeeAnneC
Mar 15, 2018
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#31
Well! Glad to see a comprehensive discussion ensued! I'm also grateful (and a bit relieved) to see that others view what happened as we do - a horrible thing to do to someone, and something that has serious safety implications and should not be allowed by law.

However, as some have noted, it's true that this occurred in another country whose laws we do not know, and are likely not as stringent as they are here in the US. Trust me, if this had happened here in the US, we would be raising holy hell to a variety of organizations and agencies! But...Columbia. Not known as the most law-abiding place in the world. ;-)

I really appreciate marcinjeske's comments - that's exactly what I was looking for: thoughts and suggestions on how best to go about this with Avianca. We can't save the world, and don't intend to try...meaning, we don't expect our complaint will have much impact on laws and/or practices at an airport in Columbia (although hopefully it will result in something changing - at the very least, retraining of the Avianca employees who abandoned her.)

But we do think that Sandy deserves some form of compensation for what she went through. It was a terrifying hour for her, for sure, and nobody should be put through that. It was an awful way to start her vacation too! And not to play the "elderly disabled" card, but let's be frank: putting someone of her age through something so terrifying could have had dire results. Fortunately she's a spunky lady and made it through okay.

Sandy and I just talked about this, and we're going with the approach of letting them put out the first offer. Honestly, I can't see them being willing to reimburse for the shuttle -- as noted earlier, there are any number of reasons why she might have missed that shuttle, so I cannot see the airline assuming accountability for that (especially since it was probably ground services in Rio who were at fault for that delay). But leaving her alone on the plane is DEFINITELY Avianca's fault!

Thanks again for the great discussion and perspectives. I promise to come back and let y'all know what the outcome was.

LeeAnne
 
Mar 15, 2018
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#32
Hi...just wanted to give an update on this case. We followed your advice and, using Elliott's rules for effective consumer complaints, drafted an email succinctly stating what happened. Sandy sent it to the contacts on your Avianca list, starting with the first name. She waited a week in between each one, and heard nothing. Last week she sent it to the final name, and YAY! She got an answer today! She heard back from a customer service manager. The email did not settle the case - simply said that they have started an inquiry and asked Sandy for her phone number so someone can call her.

She is prepared with all of the information that you all kindly offered here, including the possibility of reporting this to the Civil Aviation Regulatory Agency in Colombia (which she won't mention unless they are unwilling to offer anything). As noted earlier, Sandy does travel quite a bit and would be quite happy with some kind of flight credit as a goodwill gesture for putting her through that. We'll wait to see what they offer, and I'll let you know what happens.
 
Mar 15, 2018
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#33
GREAT NEWS! Sandy finally heard back from Avianca. They called her today. She had a lengthy discussion with a customer service executive who reports to the CEO. They took full responsibility, apologized, said this is not how they normally handle disabled passengers, and asked her if she would be willing to give Avianca another try. Sandy said yes, and they're sending her a $400 voucher. They also said that they have initiated re-training of staff to ensure it doesn't happen again.

This works out perfectly, as she will have two trips within the next year on which she can fly Avianca. She's very satisfied, and feels that this is fair compensation for her ordeal.

Also, I should mention that they told her the first three names she emailed no longer work at the company! So that explains why she heard nothing until she emailed the final name on your Avianca contacts list - they didn't know anything about this case until just recently. Sandy is going to send me the contact info for the customer service executive who called her...where should I post that info so that you can update your contacts?