Flying the (not so) friendly skies
I am a wheelchair user. I have travelled a lot by plane. I have had many bad experiences. They were frustrating at the time. But they can seem funny now. Before one flight I nearly fell on my face at the security check. On another flight a lady leapt over a seat to sit next to me. Another time I was left in the airport for over 20 minutes by myself.
Posted by: Janice Florence, on 28/04/10
I have had many memorable experiences
In my years using a wheelchair, I have flown a lot in Australia and overseas. I have had many memorable experiences. They have been both good and bad.
When I book a ticket, the airlines interrogate me about what I can and can’t do. They also ask questions like how long, wide and high my wheelchair is. I feel a bit like a criminal trying to sneak on board. I fly on the airline that asks the least questions.
There is sometimes a tussle about whether I can ride my own chair all the way to the boarding lounge. Airport wheelchairs are amazingly uncomfortable. I also can’t use the toilet from one of those things. Last minute toilet stops are essential as I often can’t get into toilets on board. I like to be fully in control until the last minute when I have to get into one of their skinny on-board chairs.
Security checks can also be fun. In Hawaii I was pushed around in an airport wheelchair. Security then asked me take off my boots so they could look inside for dangerous weapons. The balance on their rickety old wheelchair was different from my chair. When I bent down to take off my shoes I pitched forward. I was about to land on my face when the burly security lady caught me. On another occasion, a security person questioned me about what was hidden under my jumper. I finally realised that it was my spine!
First to board
I am always first to board. I’m always given an aisle seat. The person next to me then has to climb over my lap. On the way to Canberra my “neighbour to be” was embarrassed about this. So she did an acrobatic flip over the back into her seat. She was wearing a short skirt.
I didn’t want to embarrass you, she said. She did not seem worried about the floor-show she had just provided for other surprised and delighted passengers.
It’s easy for me to transfer into a plane seat if the arm lifts up. But if it doesn’t lift up, it is impossible. I was put in a seat where the arm didn’t lift once when flying from Singapore. I pointed out to the flight attendant that the arm of the next seat did lift. I asked to be moved. But she firmly said no. She said she would lift me over the arm. I was at least twice her size and weight. The other passengers were lining up behind me. After a 10-minute argument she finally gave in.
Sometimes when arriving at a destination after a flight there has not been a chair waiting at the door as requested. Once coming back to Melbourne they put me in a tiny airport chair.
Where will I put you? said the person assigned to wheel me. She then left me there. I felt like a lost parcel.
Over 20 minutes later, she still hadn’t returned. The place was deserted. I was left to dream of toilets and cups of tea. I was in the kind of chair you cannot push yourself. In my own chair I would have been out in no time. Finally a staff person passed way off in the distance. I yelled out. Apologising, he suggested I could send in a complaint. There’s nothing like writing a complaint letter to end a relaxing holiday…
What are some of your flying experiences? Let us know in the comments section below.
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