United Airlines has announced new technologies and policies to improve the travel experience for customers who use a wheelchair, including a new digital filter on its website that helps determine which aircraft can accommodate different sized chairs, and refunding the fare difference if a higher-fare flight is needed to accommodate a specific wheelchair size. The airline expects to launch these new tools early next year.
“By offering customers an easy way to know if their personal wheelchair fits on a particular airplane, we can give them the peace of mind they deserve when they fly with us,” said Linda Jojo, Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Officer for United. “Plus, collecting this information ahead of time ensures our team can handle these special items with proper care and attention.”
The new flight filter on the website will enable customers to enter the unique dimensions of their personal wheelchair as part of the flight search. The search results will then prioritise flight options on aircraft with cargo hold doors large enough to accommodate the wheelchair dimensions. The size of aircraft cargo hold doors varies, so some aircraft are better able than others to handle larger motorized wheelchairs, which must travel upright.
If a customer is unable to take a preferred flight because their wheelchair will not fit through the aircraft’s cargo door – and takes a United flight with a higher-fare that can accommodate their wheelchair on the same day and between the same origin and destination – the customer may seek a refund of the fare difference. Customers seeking a refund of the fare difference will need to follow the airline’s process, including completing a short form after they’ve travelled.
Later this year the airline will begin a six-month pilot program at George Bush Houston Intercontinental Airport to explore ways to better accommodate customers in the unlikely event their wheelchair was damaged or delayed while traveling. The program will focus on the timeframe between a customer’s arrival and when United returns the wheelchair or provides an appropriate loaner wheelchair if the original is damaged.