Disabled man flies to Prague
I went Prague for a RADAR-CNS conference. I flew with British Airways from London Heathrow airport. When you have mobility problems then travelling anywhere is never easy. Something somewhere is bound to go wrong. Disabled man flies to Prague has a few interesting twists. Nothing is straight forward.
There is never any problem riding The Trike (my Travelscoot) to the departure gate at an airport. The Trike then goes into the hold and I must take the Lithium Ion battery with me as hand luggage.
Disabled man flies to Prague
Getting passengers onto a plane is like herding sheep. The airports have had lots of practice and are pretty good at it. I think the “special assistance” is perfectly adequate but I do remember to contact the airline in advance. Once I am on the plane and sitting in my seat then things are also pretty good. It’s the small gap between the departure/arrival gate and my seat that problems occur. Heathrow airport is no exception.
It’s out of my control
The baggage handlers take The Trike at the departure gate. I will not see it again until I arrive at my destination. I can walk, albeit very slowly, from the door of the plane to my seat. At Prague airport the baggage handlers wanted me to collect the scooter at the baggage carousel and not deliver it to the plane 🙁 .
I was horrified
The thought of my precious mobility scooter being thrown around by the baggage handlers turned my brain into jelly.
The Trike was not folded up.
How will I get from the plane to the baggage carousel?
Luckily the BA crew stepped in and made sure The Trike was delivered to the gate.
So my journey to Prague was reasonably straightforward. I wish I could say the same for my return.
The journey home
At the departure gate on the air bridge in Prague I had to separate the seat from the frame and then fold up The Trike. There was no option. The plane lands at Heathrow airport; the baggage handlers transfer The Trike to the air bridge. What happens is between is a mystery. As always it is long after the last passenger has disembarked that The Trike appears and I can then leave the plane.
When I put it back together I realise the clamp unit that secures the seat to the frame is broken. I pointed out this problem but everyone just shrugs their shoulders. I get the feeling the baggage handlers think “Your scooter and not my problem”.
The process of boarding and disembarking a plane is humiliating and very efficient at removing my dignity.
Back at home
Now the seat for The Trike comes away from the frame when I lift it off the ground. I am not a happy bunny. Its mendable but very inconvenient for me. I use The Trike every day, vital for my quality of life. Okay, this is the excuse to fix all the little problems on it but it will take a bit of organisation.
The Wife and I flew to Barcelona from Luton airport
Action packed couple of days in Barcelona
Many thanks for all the useful advice. I have always used airport wheelchair services but will pack all tips in my suitcase for future use .
Airports are good at transferring people with mobility problems to and from the aircraft. Sometimes you can get left in a dark and gloomy corner, it happened to me at Luton airport more than once. Generally speaking I have no serious complaint.
I bought some spare seat clamps from Travelscoot. You also need to check that the grub screws holding the clamp in place have not been rattled out and lost.have managed to get spares grub screws on eBay
Thanks for the tip about the grub-screw. I think a good iron-monger or DIY place could source them. Nearly everything is standard issue, the clever part is the frame and design
I have had no such bad luck on my travels with my Trike so far. I always insist on bringing it to the plane steps/door and getting it back as soon as I disembark the aircraft. It also helped security in Johannesburg airport quickly identify myself and my wife when we got temporarily detached from our group
I have made numerous journeys by air and this is the first time I have encountered any problems. The problem came about because the baggage handlers in Prague insisted that I fold up the Travelscoot. This is the first time such a demand has been made. In future I will always insist that I will not fold it up.
I have heard some real horror stories with damage to wheelchairs. The Travelscoot is robust but on this occasion removal of seat from the frame created the problem.
As I say next time.
As ever I report from Australia and to say, as you mention BA, how much difference the airline can make.
I circumnavigated the globe several times with a manual wheelchair and it was Qantas, BA and other “national carriers” that came to the party as you describe.
I have yet to try with my power chair.
What did you think of the toilets?
From memory toilets on planes are tiny. Now I have had my bladder ‘botoxed’ I manage to survive. I have done self catheterisation but if you have lost use of legs then airline toilets are a waste of space.
Take a look at Disabledflying website http://flyingdisabled.org.uk/. Not being able to walk and aeroplanes are not a good combination, a powerchair adds another problem to the equation.
I’ve never taken my scooter by air, relying instead on airport wheelchair services at all stages. My problem has been getting to and from my seat – especially accessing the toilet. I can’t walk at all now so flying has been scrubbed – and I don’t enjoy flying.
Emigrating from the UK (North Wales) to the US (Idaho), my wife and I decided to go by sea – on the Queen Mary 2. That was best for our dogs too as the QM2 has kennels plus a ‘poop deck’.
Most of our possessions, including my versatile electric wheelchair, were sent by container ship. Nothing damaged – except my wheelchair. The removal firm had forgotten to switch it off after loading it. Dead batteries were the result – that should have been an easy fix. It wasn’t and the excuse…it’s foreign. So, I’ve been using a manual for a year……………………………..
If you have the time then crossing the Atlantic by sea is the way to do it. To me flying is an ordeal, necessary because of available time and distance. The Wife and I are going to Australia later this year, our son lives in Sydney. We are stopping off in Singapore for a couple of days, cannot say I am looking forward to the journey.
Do you miss the electric wheelchair? It must have offered you independence but the manual wheelchair means you are taking exercise. Sounds like 6 or one or half dozen of the other
I miss some of the functions of the wheelchair, like its ability to raise very high (to get books), or tilt into a bed, or cross rough grass. But, you’re right – I get exercise.
I’m pretty sure they do it out of malice as they must know how important it is – they’re the sort who hate anyone who is different – whether it’s race, disablement, sexuality – horrible people!
As regards wheelchairs etc I suspect too many people do not understand or appreciate that these items are a part of our body and are necessary to give us a quality of life. Yes there are some spiteful misinformed people but hey there are always a few rotten apples.
Know exactly how you feel.
The potential damage of my equipment is the thing that stresses me most about flying. Gone are the days when I might have worried about the unlikely plummet into shark infested waters – now it is the near certainty that at least one bit of my machine will be busted.
Have joined a group that is working towards improving flying and personally this issue is top of my agenda.
Keep travelling and sharing your stories!
Its when The Trike is out of sight and being ‘looked after’ by A. N. Other who does not understand how important this piece of equipment is. Frightening.