Health and Disability · Invisible illnesses

Travelling when disabled!

My first experience of struggling to travel was last year when I went to Turkey, so I decided that I’d have to have assistance next time I travelled as I was in pain for 3 days when I arrived last year and that’s no way to start a holiday! So when my Aunt and Uncle invited me to Spain to stay with them they organised airport assistance for me as well. As this is a new thing I was worried and embarrassed about having to have help around the airport, but I had it in my head that I’d get to go on one of those golf cart things you see on TV so I wasn’t feeling too bad about it.

So last Tuesday I went to my parents, got a lift to the airport (yes I am that spoilt 😉) and headed to the assistance desk. The guy there told me I had to check in and come back with a slip to get assistance to the plane…I just looked at him! I’d used all my spoons getting to the desk never mind going to the check in desk, queue, get checked in and then get back to him! Crazy man! How on earth am I supposed to do that? Why would I book assistance if I could do that? So I told him that he needed to sort something out as I couldn’t physically do that, and standing discussing it with him was becoming difficult as well! So he got on his phone after a bit of huffing and puffing about procedure and him needing a slip of paper…then someone came up behind me and said she would sort it out. 

This was Vicky. She’d been working at the airport for years and was more than happy to take me to get checked in, bring me back with the magic slip and keep him happy. She had a wheelchair and I said I was looking forward to going in a golf buggy thing and she told me they only have them in the larger airports. We were both disappointed ☹️. I got myself into the wheelchair, it was the first time I’ve been in one, and she pulled along my case and we pushed in a bit at the check in desk as the queue was enormous! Thank you to everyone I pushed in front of! ☺️

She got the magic slip and we headed back to the assistance desk to hand it in. What I found odd was when I checked in they asked Vicky the questions and not me. I stood up so that I could see over the desk, the assistant took my info and still spoke to Vicky…very odd!

She explained that she would take me up to the shopping area and leave me to have a wander and do whatever I wanted and she’d be back to get me at 5.30 to take me to the departure lounge. She picked up 2 trainees and we headed off. I was whizzed through passport control and duty free and say in an area for assisted passengers behind the private lounge. The two trainees had only been there a coupl of days but we’re learning the ropes and getting used to having to show their passports, leave drinks behind and learn the layout of the airport. I was surprised to learn that they had to follow the same rules as us when moving through the airport and had to get rid of drinks and other liquids when moving through security. This must cost them a lot as they don’t have a base that they get to regularly to be able to drink and have snacks. I’d waste a fortune as I’ve always got to have a drink on me.

The assisted area was nice, lots of people there weren’t using the service, but there was space when I was there. I went to the toilet and got some food and by that time Vicky had come back for me. I was wheeled to the departure lounge which was a separate one from the general departure lounge and just had people who needed assistance.  As each flight was ready the passengers were collected and taken to the planes. 

There wasn’t a toilet in the lounge which seemed a bit silly, and the loos were quite a walk away, and no disabled toilet, but I managed. Just. When I got back everyone else was on the transport so I got the last seat on it. It was like a portacabin on a crane on wheels, so it went down with us all in it and then drive across the runways to our plane and moved back up again so that we could get onto the plane. We were all sat near the back and I had a spare seat beside me which was great.

The whole experience at Newcastle airport was great. Vicky explained what was happening which was really helpful as I’d never travelled with assistance before, she was lovely, friendly and helpful and obviously enjoyed her job which made my experience so much better. Being wheeled about was a bit odd, but it wasn’t too bad, the equipment was modern and good quality and I felt safe all of the time. When I got to Spain it was a different story…

We arrived in Alicante airport and were left on the plane for about 30 minutes while we waited for the transport machine to come to get us. We’d already been delayed for over an hour so had been on the plane for ages and yes it was uncomfortable, and a bit annoying having to wait so long, but it got worse. Once the transporter arrived we were asked to get onto it and there were no seats, just wheelchairs which didn’t seem to safe, but I sat down. The staff didn’t speak much English which is fine, we were in Spain. They asked for our passports which concerned me, so I was uncomfortable, didn’t feel safe and was worried about my passport when we started moving, getting battered about until we got our passports back along with a slip saying we were getting assistance. The transport machine pulled up and only 6 people at a time could get on it, again a bit worrying, I stood close the side when I got on and it was like the end of a truck when it’s doing a delivery, I felt like cattle! It was awful! We then had to sit in wheelchairs and were wheeled into the building and parked. The people who had someone with them could go through, so as I was alone I had to wait. I was chatting to a man who was also travelling alone and he said that Ryanair was always a bit disorganised with assistance and he always had to wait. Other travellers had been getting annoyed as we had to wait ages on the plane and it was causing pain, discomfort and feelin like a second class citizen. I didn’t mind waiting on the plane, but I did get a bit upset by the cattle like moving of us from the plane to the airport, and no one explaining what was happening.

So while we waited to be pushed to baggage reclaim the nice man and I chatted and complained a bit. We were then pushed through security by two assistants. Sounds fine, except there were three of us!! This was awful and embarrassing and I felt like an afterthought and not worth proper assistance. A third person arrived and we each had a helper which made me feel a bit better. I collected my luggage and headed to meet my Uncle. The man who was helping me said we could take the wheelchair to the car park which was great and he took us to the lifts. So a lovely end to a challenging experience!

The return journey!

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