Susie Mallett

Parent blog

Sunday 28 October 2012

Flying and wheelchairs, how well do they mix?

'Not much space to manoeuvre!'

An article about travelling with disability caught my eye –

Reading this article brought back many memories and a hundred and one stories that I could tell.

Probably the worst story of all of them is about when I was in transit in Birmingham, UK after three weeks working and holidaying in Canada. I was en route to Munich and I was left somewhere in the middle of the airfield with my wheelchair-user partner because we did not fit in the bus taking everyone from one plane to the terminal for transfer. I had suggested that they ask about ten people to get out of the bus, load up the wheelchair and then get the other people in after, but no, this was not necessary as another bus was on its way!

I expect you can guess what happened. No other bus turned up and we stood like dummies on the tarmac. Eventually when the same bus returned, luckily the driver thought to check what had happened to us, it took us to the gate for the next plane. However when we arrived at the gate it had been closed for about two minutes!

No amount of arguing that it was through their doing that we where late could convince them that we should be let on the plane. I have no memory of what happened to the luggage, 

I assume that they had to take it off the plane.

We missed the flight!

I had to use all my remaining energy to get the airline to agree to me using their phone to cancel my clients for the following day’s work and to re-schedule our wheelchair-friendly transport for the two-hour trip home from the airport.

As far as I remember we got a night in a hotel with dinner far more expensive than the allowance they had given us and the flight home the next day. Compensation for anything else was not forthcoming!

I expect that there are many others who have a hundred-and-one such stories that they could tell.

Have things really improved over the past ten years as the article states?

I think attitudes have changed, wheelchair-users on the whole do not get ignored as much as they used to; my partner would ask a question and then be ignored while I received an answer that I often did not understand.

I am not sure that the actual facilities have changed in the planes themselves, it is still really difficult to get into seats and into toilets, but as far as I have experienced the facilities on the ground, in the airports, are much better.

Any other stories to tell?

Any solutions, improvements or travel tips to pass on?