United focuses on improving travel for customers with disabilities
We've heard from many of you that you expect more from us when serving customers with disabilities. We want you to know that providing convenient, comfortable and flyer-friendly service to all of our customers is one of our top priorities, and we are committed to meeting all DOT rules. And while we've made significant efforts to improve, we remain focused on doing better.
Wheelchairs at your fingertips
We receive nearly a million requests for wheelchair assistance a year, and we want to make the process of receiving a wheelchair as seamless as possible. That's why we're constantly seeking to improve our facilities and our processes. We're testing an innovative pilot project that seeks to develop the ability, through the United mobile app, for customers to self-identify when they arrive at the airport and to request a wheelchair or other disability-related assistance at the terminal. This technology will also immediately advise customers of the status of that request. In conjunction with this program, we plan to eventually leverage the use of wireless devices –the use of iPhone 6 Plus devices by our flight attendants and customer service agents – to improve our wheelchair service. We're also ensuring that our vendors who provide our wheelchair service use a more modern technology to handle requests more efficiently.
“We expect this to greatly improve our ability to have wheelchairs where they need to be, when they need to be there, so that our customers can get on their way home or to their next destination with ease," said Jon Roitman, senior vice president of Airport Operations at United.
Once our customers have received their wheelchair and are on their way, they'll be assisted along the journey by the additional elevators and wheelchair lifts we've installed this year at numerous airports, including Newark Liberty, Houston, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Orlando. We invested $3.8 million on those facility improvements this year and plan to increase that investment to more than $5.3 million in 2016.
Simulating the travel experience
Aside from the physical aspects of getting through the airport, sometimes simply understanding the process can go a long way. That's why we partner with projects such as Wings for All, Project Airport and Autism Inclusion Resources' (AIR) Airport Program, through which we invite passengers with disabilities to practice traveling without ever leaving the ground. The guests rehearse each step in the travel process – airport check in, TSA screening, boarding, a simulated flight and claiming luggage – gaining the knowledge, skills and confidence needed to have a safe and enjoyable travel experience.
Listening to our customers
We know that one of the best ways to understand the needs of our customers is to collaborate directly with them. We developed United's Accessible Travel Advisory Board to do exactly that. The group of experts living with disabilities meet regularly to review our policies and procedures for passengers with disabilities. They also travel throughout our system hosting learning sessions and providing accessibility training to employees, vendors and our airport partners.
Eric Lipp, a member of our advisory board and Executive Director of
Open Doors Organization, said, “Through the Accessible Travel Board, United front line employees are constantly receiving feedback, tips and learning opportunities from customers with disabilities. It is through programs like this, and the airline's partnerships with disability-related organizations, that makes me believe in United's ongoing dedication to providing the best services to customers with disabilities."
We'll continue to listen to our customers and hold our employees and vendors accountable as we work to improve our service to those with disabilities.