A 94-year-old disabled woman was ‘kicked out of her business class seat’ to Australia by embattled airline United staff.
The grandmother reportedly suffered embarrassment and discomfort on her 16-hour flight from LA to Melbourne after moving to economy.
Family members had clubbed together to buy Paz Orquiza a seat in business class, as she has severe arthritis.
Her niece Marianne Aguilar said the outbound journey went well, but that on the way back her aunt, who was travelling on the same flight on a cheaper ticket, was not allowed to go to her grandma to help her with tasks such as reclining her seat, opening her food or taking her to the bathroom.
She asked the flight attendant if a staff member could do that instead, but was allegedly told the only options to get help were for the elderly women to move to economy or to book another flight where both were seated in business class.
Marianne posted on Facebook: ‘My grandma suffers from severe arthritis and degenerative bone structure in her neck so she spends most of the day lying in bed.
‘Her grandchildren pitched in to buy her a Business Class ticket to ensure a comfortable plane ride for this once in a lifetime trip.’
The airline is currently battling a PR disaster after a doctor was removed from an overbooked flight in Chicago.
Dr Dao, 69, was badly bruised and left with a bloodied face, and was filmed saying ‘Just let me die’.
He was dragged through the aeroplane by officers in a video that has led to mass outrage including cutting memes online.
The company is now in legal difficulties after Dr Dao hired lawyers but is said to be still in hospital.
Marianne added: ‘Upon arrival to Australia, my grandma’s legs had swollen, she suffered from a stiff neck and her whole body ached. She was in great distress and pain from this ordeal. She was prescribed stronger pain medication and Valium to help with sleep.
‘Our family is heartbroken that this painful plane ride back to Melbourne will be the last memory of our trip for my grandma, and this has ruined an otherwise incredible family reunion.
‘I want a guarantee that what happened to my grandma will never happen to another disabled or elderly person again, and that we can stand together to stop discrimination towards the disabled and elderly.’
They wrote a formal letter of complaint.
United Airlines told Metro.co.uk: ‘We are sorry that Mrs. Orquiza did not receive the level of service she and her family expected from us.
‘We always try to work with customers on seating arrangements in the event of any special needs.
‘While Mrs. Orquiza was booked in business class, we spoke with the family and agreed that the best way to accommodate Mrs. Orquiza was to arrange for her to sit next to a family member who could assist her throughout the flight.
‘We have refunded the difference between the two tickets, and offered Mrs. Orquiza a travel voucher to use on future travel as a gesture of goodwill. We continuously review how we can further empower our employees to handle similar situations and do the right thing for our customers.’
The company previously said crew members had a different recollection about what happened and that disability regulations were not broken
The company gave the family $500 travel certificates, which they do not plan to use and $860 is being given to them even though the original ticket cost $3600.
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