CPAP Issue on AA

Discussion in 'American Airlines | AAdvantage' started by KenInEscazu, Jul 4, 2015.  |  Print Topic

  1. KenInEscazu

    KenInEscazu Gold Member

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    Wow... I can't believe the trouble I have been having while flying AA with my CPAP. I'm questioned about my third bag on almost every flight, and the response is rarely an immediate pass. They either want to see it, or they don't believe the rule exists. Tonight was the worst yet. Absolutely ridiculous and beyond irritating.

    Here is the email I sent to AA. I couldn't write the whole story, as they limit the number of characters in their complaint form. I'm missing my 1Kvoice email more and more.

    I have had trouble traveling with my CPAP since switching from UA to AA. Tonight's incident, however, takes the cake. When boarding this flight, an AA employee in the jet bridge who spoke very little English told me I could not bring 3 items on board. I corrected him. He didn't believe me, but he let me pass. The FA at the door ("Don" - Would not give me his last name) overheard our conversation and went into full power trip mode. He said, "No!" I explained again, but he insisted that I would have to check one of my items. I requested that he talk to the captain. He refused. I said I'm not going anywhere until you ask the captain. The captain allowed me to board, but wanted to speak with me. The FA said I needed a doctor's note proving I need it. When I spoke to the captain, he made the same claim, but he said it was no big deal tonight. The FA then forced me to move from the F seat I purchased months ago, stating, "Because you use oxygen, you can't be on the aisle blocking another passenger." I just moved, but it's wrong. The FA working the F cabin apologized very genuinely, and agreed when I said, "He's just on a power trip." The aa.com carry-on page clearly states that a CPAP is exempt, and says nothing bout a "doctor's note." I have never heard that in the 8.5 years I have been flying with my CPAP. This ruined my otherwise pleasant trip. I have AA flights tomorrow, Wednesday and Saturday this week, and no time for a doctor's note. What can I do to avoid a repeat?
    For those unfamiliar with a CPAP, there is no oxygen used in its operation, nor do I use it on flights. I carry it in order to protect it from damage, as any doctor or manufacturer would recommend.

    Has anyone else ever experienced such a thing? I have printed the aa.com page to carry with me, but it shouldn't be necessary. CPAPs are so common now that I don't understand how any airline employee can be unaware of the rules.
     
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  2. jrp2

    jrp2 Gold Member

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    Sorry for your troubles, I am happy to say that I have never had any issues bringing & using my CPAP on DL or BA.
     
  3. MX

    MX Gold Member

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    I haven't heard about or seen CPAP's until now, and had to look this up. Thanks for the learning experience.
     
  4. estnet
    Original Member

    estnet Gold Member

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    First, so sorry you had this experience.
    Second - need a doctor's note:mad::rolleyes: How ridiculous - you wouldn't have one at all unless a doctor ordered it!
    Third - I'm with you, I am soooo mad about taking away the ability to talk to a "customer service" person on phone or email, HATE filling out the silly form!


     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2015
  5. Newscience

    Newscience Gold Member

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    @KenInEscazu, Sorry to hear about the troubles encountered on this AA flight. From my experiences sending emails to airlines versus a "snail mail" letter (and not particularly to AA) is that they rarely receive much of a response at all, let alone a positive response. But I have always received a response (often a positive one) after writing a letter, and sending it to the airline's CEO or Customer Service representative. I'd recommend that you also send a "snail mail" letter documenting this issue to AA, along with your email.

    Good luck, and please let us know what the response from AA is to your experience.
     
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  6. uggboy
    Original Member

    uggboy Gold Member

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    Indeed, I haven't heard of them, nor seen them before either. Looked them up too.

    [​IMG]
     
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  7. KenInEscazu

    KenInEscazu Gold Member

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    For those of us who snore, these devices are life changing. Instead of awaking tired every day, I now feel well rested - even when I can't sleep as much as I'd like. It's incredible.

    The idea of sleeping with that mask was not one bit appealing, but the benefit offsets the adjustment more than enough to make me deal with it every night. There have been a few nights where I fell asleep prior to putting it on, and the difference can be felt immediately throughout the next day.

    They now make much smaller devices and masks, and some can be packed inside of a carry on without the need to use the third bag. For me, however, I need the humidifier. Until the technology advances enough to deliver a decent humidity level in a small size, I'll continue to carry the unit (mine is much smaller than the one in that picture) with the tank.

    What I couldn't include in my limited email space was the captain's comment to me, "I hope you do make a stink with AA about this. It's ridiculous." American has made a very anti-customer decision to make this online form the only method by which we can write to them. The airline can't possibly learn what concerns we have when they won't let us write a real email.

    My experience with writing a snail mail letter to AA has never resulted in anything positive, either. I left AA in 2009 over a series of form letters that didn't apply to my issue combined with an extremely rude Customer Service "Manager" who I eventually talked to via the phone.

    There are so many things I like about AA that I hope this doesn't end up running me off again. It's also in their best interest to fix it. Now that I am almost always paying for premium cabin travel, they should want to make sure that passengers like me aren't unnecessarily inconvenienced - not to mention abused. Flying in paid Business and First on July 4th, there were many open seats on my flights. I could have easily bought the cheapest ticket and still received the upgrade, but I wasn't thinking about that when I booked it.
     
  8. hillcountryfare

    hillcountryfare Active Member

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    I have been traveling on AA with a CPAP for 4 years and never had an issue, however I count my CPAP bag as one of my carryons (my other carryon is a rolling laptop bag). Do you think the issue is that you're bringing a 3rd bag, not that it's a CPAP? I've never attempted this, so I quickly looked over the carry on policy and didn't see anything that said medical items don't count towards the 2 item limit.

    FWIW, I have a Resmed S9 and switched from their travel case to a Tumi backpack (tumi t-tech-network-t-pass-brief-pack). I'm able to fit the CPAP, humidifier and accessories in there along with two days of clothes and a few other necessities using some packing cubes from Ebags.
     
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  9. KenInEscazu

    KenInEscazu Gold Member

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  10. hillcountryfare

    hillcountryfare Active Member

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    wow, that's great to know. thanks for pointing me to that.
     
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  11. Newscience

    Newscience Gold Member

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    That is the heart of the problem - bringing a 3rd carryon bag on the plane. The AA website may state that it is allowable, in this instance. But, let's face it, try this often enough, and eventually you will run into aircrew that are ignorant of this exception. And this is what had occurred. I'm surprised that it hadn't occurred sooner.
     
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  12. KenInEscazu

    KenInEscazu Gold Member

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    Oh... It occurs regularly. Usually, simply stating that it's medical does the trick. A couple of times I have had to open it to prove that it wasn't loaded with something other than a med device. This, however, was the first time I have run into a power tripping FA.

    He was determined to win some part of the battle. Only after I had a very nice conversation with the captain did he come up with the idea that I couldn't sit on the aisle because of my "disability." It is not a disability. Traveling with a CPAP is not grounds for rejecting me from an exit row seat. The guy was making things up just to show he had the power.

    He not only inconvenienced me, but also the captain, other FAs and other passengers. Who wants to listen to this kind of stuff prior to departure? I was courteous the whole time, but firm. He was being careful to use words that avoided crossing the line of clear unprofessionalism, but the smirk on his face and his unwillingness to let it go were clearly over the line. This all took over 20 minutes to resolve, and he didn't let up for one second.
     
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  13. estnet
    Original Member

    estnet Gold Member

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    For those that are interested CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) isn't just for snoring, it treats a very serious medical condition - sleep apnea. It merely provides positive pressure to keep the soft palate from collapsing (snoring is often a sign of this as is stopping breathing during sleep followed by a "snort" to start breathing again).

    Ken - such a shame that one power hungry employee can cause such a loss for a company and, in this case, probably the employee isn't even discipline (or educated)!
     
  14. Newscience

    Newscience Gold Member

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    So putting the CPAP in another roll-aboard bag or backpack, thereby having only 2 carry-ons, as also mentioned by @hillcountryfare, would solve the "problem"? ;)
     
  15. KenInEscazu

    KenInEscazu Gold Member

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    I think that AA seems to do a very poor job of educating their employees about these devices overall. The contrast between UA and AA was quite surprising to me when I made the switch. Explaining what it is for is not at all uncommon in my 8+ months of experience since coming back.

    My CPAP won't fit in my roll-aboard, btw. I have a legal limit roller, a laptop case and my CPAP.
     
  16. Newscience

    Newscience Gold Member

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    A modern CPAP/BiPAP, such as available from Respira Medical, measures 10.5"x 7.5"x 5.0" at it's widest points. I should think that this would fit in most all "legal limit rollers" available for purchase today.

    http://www.respiramedical.com/Products/Sleep.htm

    So perhaps there are some other issues that haven't been addressed here?
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2015
  17. timfrost

    timfrost Silver Member

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    For what it's worth, and not to make an excuse for the employee in any sense, sometimes people receive training on things and refuse to accept the training as policy or fact.

    I taught a long series of classes this year for Amtrak to refresh our LAX-based On-Board-Service (OBS) employees on customer service issues, company policies that are poorly or inconsistently enforced, and new policies or procedures that were or still are coming down the pipes.

    On one day, an issue came up about our carry-on baggage policy. An experienced ~5yr employee in the class asked whether garbage bags were acceptable as carry-ons. I said yes, and he immediately disagreed with me "no they're not." I told him I would do a little research and get back to him to make sure I was correct. My co-instructor continued the course and within about 2 minutes I had found the applicable policy. I read the policy aloud to everyone and immediately got a disagreement from the same employee. "No, they can't bring on trash bags. Amtrak would never allow that. We should be allowed to refuse carriage to people with trash bags." This prompted quite the discussion within the class the ultimately ended up with the employee dissatisfied but accepting that trash bags were allowed. That said, it wouldn't surprise me if the same fellow was out there turning away people with "San Joaquin Samsonites." I do think it's a silly policy as these bags almost always end up exploding their contents everywhere, but it clearly states on Amtrak.com that it is allowable. I also always try to assume the "best" worst case scenario: passengers with trash bags full of their belongings had 5 minutes to pack before escaping some kind of bad situation, and it was the best they could do. I know

    The bottom line is, employers can drive home policy all they want, but there will always be employees that feel the policy is insufficient or not in line with what they FEEL the policy should be, and will make patrons' life hell. :(

    Still really sorry you had the experience. Hopefully your email will result in ADA and sensitivity training for the relevant employee.
     
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  18. bucketlist
    Original Member

    bucketlist Silver Member

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    File a DOT complaint?
    Sorry to hear of the grief from an employee making up rules.
    Have had essentially no success in sending an email about such things, but limited success after filing a DOT complaint.
    Filing the complaint can be done online, it's not hard.
    That triggers a receipt and in 1 - 2 weeks, someone at the airline will actually look at the complaint and try to respond. (this is the approach I've had to use for UA troubles, after dropping 1K status)

    This isn't likely to change anything, but if enough complaints are lodged w/ DOT, they may look into it - certainly AA has "earned" a complaint.

    File an ADA complaint - not as familiar w/ this procedure, but it seems you were discriminated against by not being allowed to take your assigned seat. If you were trying to bring a walking stick on-board (a mobility device to which you're entitled) that could bar you from an exit row seat, but should not bar you from your assigned seat in F.

    It's also a little troubling that on this generally cordial board you get comments to the effect that - well you could fit it in your carry-on. You have a right to carry on the CPAP device in addition to the other luggage that everyone can bring. Your lunch could be sandwiched on top of your laptop, but you're allowed to bring such food on board w/out it counting against your carry-on limit (tho some FA's have given grief on this too).

    Calling the AAngels (EXP agents) might help - they could annotate your record w/ this request (for a CPAP) and it at least leaves a trail of some sort that you're getting grief. They may be able to escalate or suggest a person that would want to know about this situation, maybe the power tripper could get some education. Maybe they could document that you can bring it on board, much as they would document someone needing oxygen.

    Please let us know how this plays out!
     
  19. KenInEscazu

    KenInEscazu Gold Member

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    I just tend to ignore them as being unaware of the issues which can be associated with such a device. I carry the one I need. It's allowed on board. The FA was unprofessional to the point that his colleagues apologized for him.

    If AA doesn't respond appropriately, I will file the DOT complaint. Better to give them a chance first, IMHO. A DOT complaint is something I have filed maybe twice in my life. I reserve those for the most serious of offenses which are not appropriately resolved. This one was clearly serious. Now I'll wait to see how they resolve it.

    Certainly, with all the affirming replies here, I'll keep you updated.
     
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  20. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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  21. canucklehead
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    canucklehead Gold Member

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    The FA was in the wrong and uninformed re: CPAP.

    I believe to get a CPAP, you require a script, and it is permissible as tertiary baggage (as are other medical devices). WRT to size, most do take up a sizable amount of baggage space, though it can be reduced to minimal carriage if you bring the machine (no humidifier) and use one of UA's old washbag amenity kits to hold all the accessories. There are newer ones (Transcend and HDM) have made units the size of your palm.

    Some AA employees seem hell-bent on making people check everything. I had a recent complaint where I was forced to check a compliant carryon and on board (after everyone was boarded) discovered the bins were half empty. I found that AA Customer Relations are (sadly) unresponsive without a DoT filing. An airline must acknowledge within 30 days and respond directly within 60d.
     
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  22. KenInEscazu

    KenInEscazu Gold Member

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    A week after the fact, and still no response from AA. I really don't want to go the DoT route, but their silence on this one is causing me to give it serious consideration. I think I'll probably give them through the end of the day on Wednesday before doing so. That's 8 business days.

    Although 8 business days is not a long time in the grand scheme of things, this was intentional provocation that was completely out of line, and probably against the law. It is clearly contradictory to AA's own rules, and according to conventional wisdom it is also against the FAA regulation of such devices - although I can't yet find it on the FAA web site.

    Reflecting on the manner in which it was handled, I'm now convinced that this guy was trying to push me to the point of reacting in a manner which would give him a right to toss me prior to departure. I was very aware of that possibility, thus gave him no such opportunity.
     
  23. randykahn

    randykahn Silver Member

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    I travel a lot, and always with my CPAP machine. Normally, I can't afford to use up all the space required for it in my carry-on and I hate checking luggage. So I pack the mask and hose in my carry-on, padded with clothing to prevent damage, and I travel with a large briefcase, where the back compartment easily holds my CPAP machine. I use the SwissGear 17" wheeled computer case. It still has plenty of room for my laptop. paperwork, etc. Works like a charm.
     
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  24. mrpickles
    Original Member

    mrpickles Silver Member

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    Why don't you just print this out and use a yellow highlighter to highlight the section on CPAP's, then have the page laminated and carry it inside of your CPAP case. Maybe even print on the back the policy from another airline that you might be flying also. I have a separate CPAP that I use just for traveling and keep something like this inside of the carrying case.

    The reason someone carry this onboard is because if it in checked baggage and it goes missing for a few days this will create quite a few miserable nights of sleep waiting for a replacement.
     
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  25. frequentflyer36

    frequentflyer36 Active Member

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    Have you ever had a problem with the airline permitting you to use the CPAP machine in F on a transcontinental redeye with an outlet at your seat? Last October, Jet Blue denied me the right to use the machine because they would only allow me to operate it on batteries and would not permit plugging it into the 120 volt outlet at my first class seat.
     
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