It’s been quite a year for Lufthansa. They banned Jews from travel in the spring and now they’ve barred a U.S. congressman because of his wheelchair. And any airline knows don’t cross Congress.
Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) planned to travel to Italy in August. He was visiting military bases, and the Defense Department takes good care of members on these junkets. They called Lufthansa in advance “to make sure his power wheelchair would be permitted on the flight.”
- Airlines generally don’t allow lithium ion batteries to be checked, because of fire risk
- But they accept wheelchairs with these batteries – the usual advice is to check with the airline about the specific battery in advance, which was done here
Aviation rules require that batteries attached to wheelchairs in the cargo hold be protected with a case or covering. Under certain conditions, batteries may need to be removed and placed in carry-on luggage, as long as they are under a specified energy limit.
The quadriplegic congressman’s wheelchair was refused at the check-in counter at Boston Logan airport. Now, he has a lot more juice than the rest of us. He “put the wheelchair’s inventor on the phone with a supervisor to explain why the chair was safe,” but Lufthansa still wouldn’t budge.
According to the airline they will review guidelines and better train employees.
At times, there have been challenges when it comes to customers traveling with lithium batteries, as there are complex and detailed rules and regulations related to this. We apologize for the error made due to the misinterpretation of the technical guidelines.
A congressional staffer brought an older wheelchair without lithium ion batteries to the airport, and Lufthansa moved the passenger to a later flight the same day.
Members of Congress have numerous privileges. During ‘Project Journey’ construction at Washington National airport they actually lost their special VIP parking lot – but were nonetheless provided free parking in regular garages. Delta, among others, has long given elite status to favored politicians. Ted Kennedy once ‘saved two jobs’ — the jobs of the special services reps at US Airways who took care of him during his travels, when the airline was looking to make significant cutbacks after 9/11.
But they privilege has its limits, and that limit is Lufthansa.
(HT: Paul H)