Swiss against PRM Passengers – a field report

My Flight from Boston to Zurich with Swiss (Air) on April, 13th 2008 (excerpt of a complaint):

1. From Boston I was escorted on an airport wheelchair to my seat.
2. The problem at the seat was: The armchair could not be lifted, so I said, that I couldn’t make the transfer.
3. The Stewardess did not know what to do.
4. The seating line before me was more appropriate for a transfer, so we finally made it to change my seats.
5. In order to double-check I asked the stewardess whether there was an onboard wheelchair
6. She didn’t know and checked it for 5 minutes.
7. She came back and said: „There is no wheelchair on board“.
8. I asked her to get a wheelchair, since I would like to use the toilet on a 7 hours flight!
9. The wheelchair could finally be organised.
10. Then I asked her whether the wheelchair actually fits into the toilet.
11. She and the Cabin Chef  came to tell me that the wheelchair does not fit into the toilet.
12. Captain Daniel Stalder came and asked me what to do.
13. I said, I don’t know.
14. The captain then said: “Since you are not able to come to the toilet, we have to take you from the plane“.
15. I said, that I would like to try to get on the toilet
16. The captain said the try would take too long; I had to leave the airplane immediately.
17. I insisted on trying it.
18. A passenger – who said next to me – said to the captain that he would be obliged to accommodate me. He should at least let me try to reach the toilet.
19. Both the captain and the cabin chef refused to help me by pushing the wheelchair to the toilet. They said that they were not trained to do it and that it would be their responsibility to do it.
20. The passenger said that she would help me.
21. The passenger got the wheelchair from behind the business class area. The cabin chef did not help her.
22. The passenger pushed the wheelchair it to my seat; I made the transfer to the chair.
23. The passenger pushed me into the direction of the restroom.
24. On the way we to the toilet we got stuck in the carpet. Meanwhile the cabin chef was standing to watch the scenario. He kept his arms folded, even as he saw that we had troubles to get to the restroom.
25. I asked the cabin chef to help us, what he finally did.
26. I took a look to the restroom and said that I would be somehow possible to get onto it.
27. I finally was allowed to stay on the flight

During the discussion all of the participants got increasingly stressed. The captain and the cabin chef were trying to put the blame on me, since I wouldn’t have informed the Airline beforehand. The accusation obviously is not true, since I previously informed United Airlines, both per telephone as well as online, where I added the need of wheelchair assistance to my profile.

Although I said to reach the restroom and use the toilet, it did not mean that the restroom was accessible from now on. In contrast to the sign on the door which showed the blue wheelchair icon the toilet was not at all easily accessible for me. I was forced to make a 180 degree turn, which almost broke my legs. The toilet neither had the space nor appropriate help bars.

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