Lucian Smith seated on an accessible device in front of a snow covered mountain.Lucian Smith

Some Good, Some Bad

I have been using a wheelchair for a little over 30 years and fly quite often. I have had to crawl on and off planes. One particular flight stands out in my mind. I was flying from CT to Philly and I arrived at Bradley airport in New Haven to be told the wheelchair staff has gone home and if they just took the aisle chair and loaded me on and something went wrong they would be fired so I crawled on the plane. Well, since they did not have a record of a person in a chair getting on the plane they made no arrangements for anyone to assist me off the plane so I crawled out also. It was frustrating and embarrassing. I was also left in a plane at Dulles airport in DC. The planes park out on the tarmac and large buses come out and take the passengers to the terminal. The bus did not have an aisle chair so it left and nobody sent another bus back to come get me. I did not have a phone with me and was found by a security person or I am not sure how long I would have been out there. To compensate for these and others I usually get travel vouchers for a few hundred dollars but they are basically so restricted that they are worthless. On the other hand, I have been given first class upgrades because I was traveling in a wheelchair. I remember flying from Philly to Hawaii and getting first class for both me and my wife. It really is a shame in my eyes that the airlines are still very poorly prepared to deal with people in wheelchairs and it is even more frustrating that many have chosen to outsource the process to sub-contractors who are even less skilled and less vested in the passenger’s level of satisfaction. I try to fly Southwest as much as I can as I feel they take the most care in taking care of my needs and I did just about anything to avoid flying US Air but now they were merged with American and have gotten a little better but it is funny how I can still tell if the employee was from US Air. They have a special sort of attitude that lets passengers (walking or not) know that they DO NOT CARE.

Lucian Smith, PA