“When you’re done screaming, pull the mask down over your nose and mouth and breathe normally.” What did he say? The entire plane was laughing and now listening to his every word on emergency airline procedures.
When I booked our tickets with AirTran I was uneasy. Traveling can be stressful; traveling with a daughter in a wheelchair can be extremely stressful. Too many times I have had to watch her cringe with embarrassment because even though I informed the airline online, called and asked several agents for help-the straight-back chair was not at the gate in time for boarding. Arielle would have to be rolled to her seat in front of a plane full of staring eyes. In fact after countless flights, there is one airline I will avoid. It is painfully obvious they have not trained their employees on the procedures of accessible travel.
Delta had always been my airline of choice, up until our last trip with them, they had a decent track record of making sure Arielle’s seat was accessible and the straight-back chair was available at the time of boarding.
Wheeling her racing wheelchair up to AirTran’s ticket counter, I put on my smile and felt my stomach churn. My mantra since I was two years old has been “I’ll do it myself.” I hate asking people for help even more than I hate asking for directions. This mantra has been challenged continuously since I’ve started traveling with the wheelchair. If the airline employees are stressed-I have learned to simply breathe and stay calm. The slightest remark can set them off as Arielle quickly learned when she tried to challenge the Delta ticket agent telling her it shouldn’t cost $200.00 to check her racing wheelchair. The woman insisted it was a bike-I nodded. Don’t mess with a stressed out ticket agent. I waited a few days, went back, and Delta gave us a refund.
The man at the AirTran counter looked at the racing wheelchair. This time I was ready. He called it, sports equipment, and was going to charge me an extra $70.00. “It’s like this… if she could run she would have packed a pair of sneakers for her race but since she can’t stand-she has this.” That was my reply, stolen from a conversation with my husband after the Delta incident. “I get it.” That’s all the man said and he called someone to come and pick up the wheelchair. I think he even smiled. First impression with AirTran-excellent.
Much to my delight, the entire trip with AirTran was exceptional. They made sure Arielle had an accessible seat, they had the straight-back chair available, they even made us laugh a second time when the comedian/flight attendant announced after landing “Be careful when opening the overhead bins… shift happens.”
Thank you, AirTran!