Alzheimer’s, Travel, and ALL that goes along with it . . . Follow-Up

I know this is a long post, however, I wanted to be sure to include everything to give everyone a clear perspective.

This is a follow-up to my earlier blog post I wrote regarding my airline mishap. I did send an e-mail to the CEO and other Officers of the airline to call attention as to how I was treated. I didn’t do this for my own benefit. I did this so it would not happen to anyone after me.
I made the decision that if they responded satisfactorily, I would not mention the name of the airline. I did receive 2 phone calls and an email in response to my letter. I will say, the phone call nor the e-mail came from the CEO or from any of the officers I wrote. It came from someone in Customer Relations.

I will now post the response I received but I am reserving my opinion as well as not revealing the name of the airline. I  would like to know what you, the reader feels.
Was this an appropriate response?
Did they do enough?
I would love to hear your responses as if this happened to you. Would you feel it was handled satisfactorily?

Below you will find my original blog post, my letter to the CEO and officers of the airline, followed by the response from the airline.

I look forward to YOUR responses. Also, please feel free to share with others.

Thanks,
B

(ORIGINAL BLOG POST, written March 22, 2018)
I love traveling. I love traveling so much that 99% of the time, I travel by myself and most of the time, it’s without incident. This time around, it was incident overload.

I grew up, and have always lived in the South. The temperatures are warm and if it dips below 50 degrees, out comes the heavy coats, scarves, and gloves. I know, people who live in colder climates look at us shivering in what we describe as “cold weather” and shake their heads but, at least we have beaches that we can basically visit year round so it does have its perks.

I have seen snow a few times in my life. It’s a beautiful event where the landscape turns that pure, pristine white and makes everything look so crisp and clean. You watch the news and see folks shoveling their driveways, having accidents due to ice on the roadways and being delayed at airports due to the inability to safely fly.

I had never experienced the kind of snow I have only seen on the news until this week in Washington, DC. The snow was still beautiful and wonderous to see, however, the aftermath of the snow is what affected me.

Most of the time, when I have speaking engagements like I did this past week at the Leading Age PEAK Leadership Summit and Great Minds Gala, I am engaged, empowered and enabled which keeps me in the moment, centered and focused. There is a schedule that I follow. I know where and when things will happen and if there is a hiccup, there are wonderful folks around to assist.

When hiccups occur outside of the structured environment, let’s just say things don’t run as smoothly. Anxiousness sets in, which, in the Dementia World, is quite a bit different than it is if you don’t have Dementia. The situation is amplified. You are aware of what is happening and you are also aware that it’s beyond anyone’s control, but it still brings on anxiousness.

What is NOT acceptable is the treatment received from certain people.

When I am experiencing my moments of anxiousness, my speech becomes broken, jumbled and stuttered. I can’t explain why it just is what it is. When I was speaking to airline employees over the phone, stumbling and bumbling and then finally able to compose myself, I explained that I have Alzheimer’s Disease. They continued to be very patent, kind and professional. Although they weren’t able to get me on another flight, they did what they could to explain everything to me, answer all my questions and assure me I would get on another flight the next day. Simply, they provided me with great customer service.

When I encountered the airline employees in the airport and began stumbling and bumbling, I wasn’t given the opportunity to explain what was happening to me. Instead, in one case, I was immediately asked, “Are you, drunk sir?” Then was told, “If you’re drunk, you won’t be allowed to fly.” I was shocked and thrown off guard by her remark.

In another attempt to get assistance, I was told, “sir if you aren’t able to communicate, you will have to find someone to speak for you,” and then they called for the next customer.

In both cases, I was finally able to communicate that I had Alzheimer’s Disease and was experiencing extreme anxiousness and that I was NOT DRUNK! In one case, I was laughed at for they thought I was joking about my Alzheimer’s.

In the other case, I felt dismissed. After several minutes of trying to explain, I’m still not sure they completely believed me. I sincerely don’t feel I was given the full attention other customers received. As I said above, I felt completely dismissed.

What this shows is there is a HUGE need for more Awareness and Education when it comes to Dementia. Being treated in this manner is completely unacceptable and should NEVER happen. I intend to write this airline (which I will not mention here) and convey my feelings as to how I was treated, dismissed and laughed at, all because I was not acting in a way they deemed to be normal. 

I will also include that while others who had to travel a lot further than I did, utilizing other airlines, they are already home while I’m still sitting in a hotel room as I write this blog post. I’m keeping my fingers crossed I get home this evening.

Until Next Time,

PEACE
B

 

(my letter to the Airline CEO and Officers)

A Very Unfortunate, Unprofessional and Demeaning Experience

Mr. XXX,

I am writing to you in regards to my experience with your airline.

First I want to tell you, I travel frequently as a Dementia Advocate and I am Living with Alzheimer’s Disease.
I recently traveled to Washington, DC for a speaking engagement and chose your airline for its non-stop service and cost-effective airfares. (living with Alzheimer’s, anytime I can choose a non-stop flight, I do so). My flight to DC was non-eventful. Everything went fine. The return trip, however, was anything but.
My return trip was scheduled for March 20th. The flight was canceled due to inclement weather. I understand that is beyond the control of the airline, however, the actions of your employees are within the control of your airline and that is what I found to be inexcusable.
I was given notice through a text that my return flight on Tuesday the 20th was canceled. I spoke to one of your customer service representatives on the telephone and I must say, they were nothing but professional. They advised me of what was going on and told me I should try again the next day.
The next day, March 21st, I checked the flight information and my flight was still scheduled to take off at the scheduled time. I made my way to the airport only to be advised, after being there for several hours, the flight was canceled due to the weather. This made me extremely anxious which was exacerbated by my Alzheimer’s Disease. I approached the desk and, due to my anxiousness, I was having difficulty getting my words out. I advised the gate attendant that I needed assistance and information because I have Alzheimer’s Disease. SHE LAUGHED AT ME!!! 
I’m not sure if she thought I was joking or what was going through her mind, but her reaction was unfounded, rude, unprofessional and INEXCUSABLE! She then proceeded to tell me, “If you can’t tell me what you need, you’ll have to find someone to speak for you.”
As I stated in the beginning, I travel throughout the country as a keynote speaker and conference presenter, speaking very clearly, educating and making people aware of what its like to Live with Alzheimer’s Disease. I also travel on my own for it helps me to say independent. Throughout my travels with other airlines, I have NEVER received this type of treatment. 
Feeling dejected, I just turned and walked away. I could not believe what had just happened. I felt dismissed, unrespected and sad.
I made my way down to baggage claim and waited 2 1/2 hours for my luggage to be returned to me. One of your employees noticed I had been sitting there for a long period of time and asked for my claim ticket. About 30 minutes later, he returned with my bag. I was grateful. (by the way, I didn’t tell him I had Alzheimer’s Disease for fear I would be treated as I was by the gate attendant.)
The next day, March 22nd, the weather had cleared and I made my way back to the airport. Being still shaken by the way I was treated the day before, my anxiousness returned. I made my way to the gate to check in, as I always do, and again, my words were not coming out clearly. Another gate attendant working the desk said, “Are you drunk, sir? I can’t allow you to fly if you’re drunk!” I went cold.
2 days in a row, I was disrespected and treated extremely unfairly. I could not believe what was happening. Again, I turned and walked away. I sat in the section for people who need assistance. I was approached by an airline representative who heard my interaction with the gate attendant. She asked me if I needed assistance and I responded, YES. She told me to wait for her to come and get me and I would be boarded first. That is what I do every time I fly.
I then saw her go to the gate attendant and speak to her. She turned looked at me and went back to what she was doing as if I didn’t matter. By her unresponsiveness, I didn’t matter to her.
When the time came for the flight to be boarded, my new found friend came to get me, we boarded the bus and I was brought t the plane. I hugged your employee for being gracious, kind and human. I told her, “Thank you for treating me normal.” The flight went without incident except for a small delay.
I’m telling you about my experience for, as a person with an Invisible Disability, I was treated unacceptably on so many levels. In addition to my speaking engagements, I also train Law Enforcement in Crisis Intervention Team Training. I’m not sure what type of training your employees have but, in my opinion, training is needed. I would be more than happy to speak to your employees as to how to recognize individuals like myself who have an Invisible Disability such as Alzheimer’s or other Dementia-Related Illnesses.
I know you are a busy person, however, I sincerely hope and look forward to a reply from you personally. I also hope you put measures in place so this does not EVER happen to me or any other individual with a disability ever again.
I look forward to your reply.
Sincerely,
Brian LeBlanc

 

(response from the airline)

April 2, 2018

 
   

Dear Mr. LeBlanc:

Thank you for taking the time to speak with me on March 30, 2018 and April 2, 2018.  I hope your day is much better.

On behalf of XXX Airlines and XXX I appreciated the opportunity to address your concerns regarding your travel with us from Washington, DC on March 20, 21, and 22, 2018.

I am sorry for any confusion about our customer service policies and procedures, any misinformation you received and any discomfort or inconvenience this caused. While we do all possible to avoid disruptions to our schedules, sometimes changes are unavoidable. When disruptions do occur, we will do our best to minimize your inconvenience. I do, however, share your concerns regarding the insensitive behavior on the part of our personnel. We expect our employees to be courteous and helpful at all times and especially in situations such as you described. As we discussed on the phone a report has been sent to the DCA Station Manager the appropriate management personnel for internal review and handling of the agents behavior.

XXX Airlines must train employees with respect to awareness and appropriate responses to passengers with a disability, including persons with physical, sensory, mental, and emotional disabilities, including how to distinguish among the differing abilities of individuals with a disability. Based on what you said, it appears our employee could have handled your situation more appropriately. In this instance, from a regulatory perspective there is no violation since despite what you described occurred, XXX Airlines provides sensitivity training to all personnel. Please be assured your feedback is very important to us since it provides us with a measuring tool for customer satisfaction.

I understand that our promise to improve doesn’t change the inconveniences you’ve endured.  As a more tangible evidence of our concern and regret for your disappointing experience, I have credited 10,000 bonus miles to your account. This mileage adjustment will be reflected in your account very soon.While you are always free to contact the Department of Transportation Aviation Consumer Protection Division about the difficulties that occurred, I hope that I was able to address the issue for you. We look forward to having you on another XXX Airlines flight in the future.

Should you ever need assistance following a trip you’ve taken with us, call our Past Travel Disability Assistance Line at XXX-XXX-XXXX. We’re here to help.

Mr. LeBlanc, I appreciate the time that you have taken to write. We look forward to welcoming you on board an XXX Airlines flight in the future.

 

Sincerely,

 
   

XXX

Customer Relations

 

XXX Airlines

I look forward to your responses!

B