United Once Forced a Disabled Asian Grandma to Move From Business to Coach on 16-Hour Flight

With United Airlines’ poor and disastrous customer service being thrust into the spotlight this week, many are reminded of the 94-year-old grandmother who was forced to leave her $3,600 Business Class seat and move to Economy on her 16-hour flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne, Australia, on February 2.

Marianne Santos Aguilar recounted in a March Facebook post that her grandmother, Paz Orquiza, suffered from severe arthritis and degenerative bone structure.

Her family had all pitched in to buy her a Business Class ticket with United to make her long journey more comfortable while 

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However, Aguilar claimed her grandmother was in tears after a United flight attendant, identified only as Shauna, wouldn’t allow Orquiza’s daughter, Rose Benedicto, who was also flying but in Economy class, to help her with such tasks as reclining her seat and opening food containers unless she paid for a Business Class seat.

According to Aguilar, Shauna showed no sympathy or compassion and only gave the elderly woman two options:

Shauna said my grandma’s only options were to 1) move to Economy with my aunt or 2) take another flight and purchase another Business Class ticket for my aunt,” Aguilar said in her post.

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Benedicto explained to her mother that no one would help her if she stayed in Business Class, so Orquiza had no choice but to move to Economy.

My aunt tried to comfort my grandmother, who was in tears, and was horrified to see how much pain she had to endure during this flight,” Aguilar wrote. “Upon arrival to Australia, my grandma’s legs had swollen, she suffered from a stiff neck and her whole body ached. She is still in great distress and pain from this ordeal.

The family said they filed a complaint with United who had not apologized.

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But two months later, the airline offered $500 in travel vouchers and a refund of $860, even though the original ticket cost $3,600.

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,” Aguilar explained. “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.

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