20 August 2010 Travelling abroad
Hi guys, how are you? Hope you are all having a great summer! I recently went on holiday with my family to Canada, and I thought I’d give you all a brief run-down of some of the issues I came up against while travelling abroad.
We would be leaving our car in a long stay car park near the airport during our holiday, so we phoned up to book a place at one of the nearby car parks.
Whilst making our booking on the telephone we asked whether they had wheelchair accessible transport to take us from the car park to the airport. We were assured that they did and so we confirmed the booking.
However, on arrival we were faced with disappointment. The buses were not accessible, so we asked whether the driver could take us in our own car to the airport and after dropping us off take our car back and park it. We were told they were not insured for this.
In the end, I had to get out of my wheelchair and get into the bus with the help of my mum and sister, and my chair was put into the back of the bus, using our car ramps to help. We were all upset at this situation because we had been told something that was quite obviously untrue.
Moving on, once at the airport we had another bit of a situation with my electric chair. The staff insisted that they could not load my chair until the backrest was folded. However the backrest on my chair is fixed, and this has never been an issue any other time I have been abroad. After some discussion, which involved more and more people as it went on, the decision was made that they could accommodate my chair after all!
I was pleased that I was allowed to wait in my own manual chair (instead of the airport chairs which are usually ten times too big for me) and take it right up to the plane. This would then be loaded at the end.
Aeroplane seats I have always found uncomfortable; I have to use lots of pillows and something under my feet, as they never reach the floor. The staff on the plane was helpful though. In the 8-hour flight I sat for about half the journey, and then lay down on two seats (which was still a bit uncomfortable as the armrest between seats was digging into my rib!) while my mom and sister took it in turns to have a walk around. I think something definitely needs to be done about the design of aeroplane seating.
At the other end (Toronto) the disabled assistance was really good. There was someone waiting to help as soon as we landed. They helped us get to where we needed, and I was relieved to find my both manual and power chairs were in one piece!
The holiday was brilliant; we had lots of family to visit, then we went around Toronto, Niagara Falls, and took a road trip to NYC. Getting around was easy as we had hired a car to accommodate my chair. I didn't really get time but it would have been interesting to check out how accessible the public transport is over there...
Returning, we had no problems checking in my electric chair which was good, and the flight back was much the same as before. On landing, the assistance at the airport (Heathrow) was also very good compared to other times; once I was left waiting for nearly 2 hours for a wheelchair and assistance. This time though there was always someone around to help.
I was again disappointed however, when I saw my electric chair at baggage reclaim. The back was bent and out of shape, and the headrest was completely broken. I was happy that the chair worked, as I have previously had worse experiences, but the chair is still uncomfortable to sit in.
I filed a complaint with the airline, and this is the second time this has happened; previously my chair had been put onto the conveyor belt and after falling off it had broken apart, with the batteries, control box, and other parts lying all over the airport floor.
Though this time wasn’t as bad, it is still very upsetting when a piece of equipment that I am dependant on for independence on a day to day basis is damaged because of a lack of care or ignorance on the part of an airline company. I feel there needs to be some regulation and training for the handling and storage of wheelchairs.
There was then the final hurdle of getting from airport to the long stay car park in the inaccessible van!!
Here are some pics of my poor chair...!
Headrest broken. Bars bent.
Fragile sticker on my chair!!
Bobby Ancil replied on 24 Jul 2009 at 08:56Report abuse
It sounds like your holiday was full of surprises, some good, some very bad, Jagz.
I know Sulaiman has had a similar experience with an airline in the past. I wonder how many other Trailblazers have been in this same situation.
Jennifer Gallacher replied on 20 Aug 2010 at 16:49Report abuse
Thats terrible to get ur chair bk in that condition!
Afew yrs ago I went to NY and I had problems getting my mobile hoist aboad the flight and being allowed to stay in my power w.chair til getting on the flight! I won in the end but it was a complete nightmare of a fight to get it.
Also I was taken on last onto the plane instead of first so I had to be lifted infront of everyone which is quite embarassing!
I have had problems with my wheelchair being broke too! they disconnected the batteries even tho I had already pulled the plug from the control box so when I got my chair bk I had to sit and wait for ages til my carer figured out how to put the batteries back together again! And my hoist battery was pulled off the frame!!
Airlines need to be alot more careful with wheelchairs. It can wreck a holiday if a wheelchair or hoist is broken!!
I think there should be a system that allows wheelchairs to be clamped in place so we can travel in them during the flight! that would allow xtra comfort and less breakage!!