United Can't Find A Power Outlet On A Plane For Your Life Saving Medical Device

Reader Glenn was traveling to Thailand with a group of friends. Glenn and another member of the group have issues with Sleep Apnea, a potentially life threatening disorder where sufferers stop breathing in their sleep. Fortunately, a simple medical device called a C-Pap machine can be used during sleep to correct the problem. So Glenn, being the informed responsible consumer he is, contacted the airline the group was booked on, United, to make sure that he’d be able to use his C-Pap machine during the god-awfully long trip from Boston to Thailand. United said, sure, no problem, they’d be able to get him an outlet for his machine. Then, they canceled his booking. Without telling him. But wait! It gets worse!

A friend of mine told me I should log a complaint on this website against United Airlines. I was part of a group of 9 people traveling from Boston to Thailand on Dec 20th 2007. There were 2 of us who required an electrical outlet to supply power for C-Pap machines due to Sleep Apnea disabilities. We checked with United Airlines almost 2 months prior to the trip, to make sure they could accommodate us. They assured us it would be no problem. That’s where the trouble began.

On the day I called (October 23, 2007) United “medical dept”. They said they would contact me to confirm but that is should be fine. After not hearing from them….I called back on November 20th and found out my reservation had been cancelled and the flights were “full”. United told me my travel agent had cancelled the reservation but that was not the case. After 2-3 hours on the phone they discovered it had been cancelled by the original reservationist I spoke to on 10/23/2007. Finally they “made room” for me on the flights and supposedly we were back on track. We received calls from United a week prior to the flight saying that our electrical outlets would be available for us.

Boston to DC flight was uneventful. We boarded the plane in DC that was going to Tokyo (14 hour flight) on 12/20 around noon I think. After I was seated I couldn’t find an outlet so I called the flight attendant to show me where it was. She had no idea what I was talking about. She called a supervisor who couldn’t help me either. They moved my seat up to business class I believe and still there was no plug there. I was asked if I could fly without using the machine. I said yes but I would not be able to sleep. Then United did what I thought was unimaginable. Because they had failed comply with our request they removed my bags and my friend Mike’s bags from the plane and forced us off the flight. They separated us from our traveling group and would not even look into putting us on another flight the same day. The plane the next day had only one working outlet. They talked about having one of us stay behind again. We convinced them to let us fly and we would share the outlet.

They violated not only their own policy to accommodate medical issues with a 48 hour notice but also the Air Travel Access Act in not meeting our medical needs appropriately. An 8 page letter was responded to with a $125 coupon for each of us. We lost the cost of our hotel in Bangkok, our first day of the tour, and had to pay additional transportation costs to get to the hotel not covered by the tour because we arrived late. Sorry for all the info in such a small space. Please let me know if your website can help us. We feel at the very least we should be offered a roundtrip ticket within the U.S. We paid over $1,300 for each ticket originally. Thanks


Last I checked, $125 won’t get you coast to coast one way in this country. How insulting. I think it’s time to write to someone higher up, like Graham Atkinson, United Airlines Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Officer. Also, since they screwed up your trip because of their inability to make simple accommodations for your medical condition, despite ample warning and your compliance with their own policies, how ’bout writing to the Department of Transportation? Oh look, they have a section called”Complaints Alleging Discriminatory Treatment Against Disabled Travelers!” Refusing to accommodate for life saving medical equipment, that’s discriminatory, right?

(photo: myrespiratorysupply.com)