I am sorry to hear about your experience on the 2nd flight, hopeshuler97. I would encourage you to tweet about your experience to the Southwest corporate account. This seems to be the best way to get attention these days. As you say, being able to store the chair in the cabin is a huge advantage, and this is one other way that Southwest can beat its competitors in caring for its customers. Here is what the Southwest Website says: " Each aircraft is equipped with a specially designed wheelchair storage compartment to allow in-cabin stowage of at least one standard-size, adult, collapsible wheelchair. If the wheelchair compartment is not occupied by another Customer's wheelchair, other assistive devices may be stowed within it. On our 737-700 Series aircraft, the wheelchair compartment is located in the rear of the aircraft. On our 737-800 Series aircraft, the compartment is located in the forward section of the aircraft. The compartment is available for Customers' use on a first-come, first-served basis. " So the only reason you should have been refused storage of your chair if it was occupied by another passenger's chair. I don't know if Southwest monitors these discussions at all, but I will send a tweet and encourage them to check this one out.
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This is mostly kudos for Southwest after I was allowed to store a compact, folding wheelchair for my 93-year-old mom in the closet in the front closet of the plane. Most major airlines have such a policy to allow in-cabin storage, but that policy is uniformly ignored by gate staff and flight attendants. There seem to be a million and one reasons why the wheelchair can't be accomodated and must be gate checked--but the real reason is never mentioned, which is that the closet is to be reserved exclusively for flight staff luggage. I stopped flying AA because of outright hostility on the part of gate staff to honor this published policy. I eventually stopped asking on UAL because I got tired of the excuses. On a recent SWA flight I informed the gate attendant that I wished to store the wheelchair in the cabin and was told that would be fine. True, there was about 5 seconds of grumbling as the flight attendant bag was switched to an overhead compartment, but the wheelchair was quickly stowed with room to spare. This saved me so much headache on arrival, as I was able to quickly transfer my mom without waiting planeside for the chair. Also, at least half the time when the chair is stored under the cabin it get smooshed and comes up stuck in a folded position, and it's all I can do to open it. This was our first set of flights ever on SWA, and I must admit that I was impressed with the customer service in general--not just with regard to the wheelchair. It would be nice if there was immediate acceptance of the onboard storage without any grumbling, but our experience was so much better than on the other major airlines that a little grumbling is a small price to pay for this great convenience offered passengers with physical challenges. I should mention that according to the published SWA policy this option for a "standard-size, adult, collapsible wheelchair" is first-come, first-served, and storage may sometimes be in the rear of the aircraft. SWA Published Policy
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