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Heather Mills - Amputee Forum

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Hi Folks, and now the journey.

We left home at 0600hrs, to check-in by 0800hrs for the flight at 10.00hrs. Flying from Exeter airport, my ultimate destination was Torreveija, Spain; via Alicanti. At the check-in desk I was pleased to find that they were aware I was using my wheelchair. Customer services had passed on my request. I told them I needed my wheelchair to get to the plane and I needed it when disembarking. No probs, I was told, they stuck a baggage ticket on the chair and we went off to breakfast. We (my wife and I ) were called to the departure gate 15 minutes before boarding. After a security check and being searched. We got to the gate and were escorted to the plane, whereupon they had made arrangements for some of the airports firemen to lift me and other disabled travellers onto the plane. Normally they use an Ambi-lift, but the plane was small so this wasn’t possible. So I opted for going up the 7 steps on my bum. The stewardess took my crutches and I positioned my wheelchair seat on the second step. Then up I went, as I do at home on my bum. At the top I used my crutches, and a few ‘steps’ later onto my seat, with the added bonus of being able to put my wheelchair cushion on the seat first. My crutches were placed in an overhead locker.

Nice and comfy, plane filled with passengers and off we went. A two and half hour flight, wiggle my legs and foot about a few times, have a drink and a BLT, close eyes and listen to CD player. After we landed at Alicanti, the passengers disembarked and then an Ambi-lift was bought to the plane. Whereupon my wheelchair was waiting for me undamaged! A few steps with the crutches into my wheelchair. Then the Ambi-lift took us to the baggage area, collected baggage and then into arrivals and were met by car transfer people and taken to the apartment we had rented.

Sounds easy, simple, pleasantly relaxing? It was, no worries!

The airport staff, flight crew, ground staff did as I requested and couldn’t have been more helpful.

Now I have this theory, that if you do what I did, then your wheelchair should be one of the last items loaded and one of the first items unloaded by the baggage handlers. Therefore, they have not piled everyone’s luggage on top of your wheelchair; thus avoiding causing damage. Also, no loss of foot rests etc.

Exeter airport is a regional airport and is striving to make everything accessible. Alicanti is very good for the disabled / wheelchair traveller. What really helps is the willingness and positive attitude of staff at these airports and on the flights towards the disabled traveller.

On my return, same thing in reverse; except I used one crutch and held onto the rail when disembarking.

Now if you don’t take your wheelchair but you have a need for assistance, ask for it or the check-in staff may ask if you do need help. Don’t suffer, there is no need!

I will advise you of the following that happened to me at Schipol ( Amsterdam) and Alicanti, (Spain ) On previous trips using my prosthesis and without my wheelchair; I was getting tired and in pain because of the long queues at the check-in desks. This without having to hike halfway across the airport to the departure gate. On both occasions I was asked by the check-in staff if I needed assistance. I replied yes. I checked in and was asked to wait. 10 minutes later a guy with a wheelchair came along. Then we were taken straight to the plane, did not stop for the toilets, coffee, last minute duty free shopping etc. Directly to the plane! So be aware of this!!

Finally, if I have a complaint about a service etc I will complain! Equally, if I receive a good service I will inform the provider of that service of the good service I have received!

So I shall inform Exeter Airport and Flybe.com of the good service they have provided.

On my next vacation I will wear my prosthesis and take my wheelchair.

The next article will be about Torreveija.

Best as ever


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Hi Steve,

Thanks for the tips - they were fab and worth bearing in mind also.

I hope you had a great holiday. I too have been looking at Villas in the same region for a Summer Holiday with the kids - was it nice? B)

I have been via Alicante before - but not as an amp! Its good to hear of their services. :rolleyes:

Thanks for sharing.

Sue - Cardiff - UK

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It's nice to occassionally read about someone's experiences, traveling with "special considerations," (sounds better than special needs,) turning out well.

Not that it shouldn't be the norm, and preparation and good communication with the airline people is key to ensuring a better flight and when necessary change over/transfer experience at the airport or train station.

If you're an amputee and travel with a wheelchair, (as I do most often,) gate checking your chair is your best assurance that your chair will be stowed last and not treated as merely luggage or baggage and treated more roughly.

I'm not sure how other amps deal with all the removable parts on their chairs when they surrender their chairs at the gate, but I (try) to remember to remove anything and everything that can detach or possibly fall off in the baggage compartment - and finding a place for these things in my carry on or storing them overhead or underfoot at your seat can sometimes be problematic also.

I have mentioned in other posts, but I will mention it again here, that my wheelchair preference is a rigid frame wheelchair as opposed to a standard folder, but to be honest this is somewhat of a lifestyle change even for wheelchair users. There are less things to come off or fall off of the chair or need to be detached before the chair is stowed on the plane.

I also travel with forearm crutches and very infrequently with my prosthesis, (although I have been known to bring it along on some of my epic voyages.)

My mentally is "whatever it takes" to get there, with as much kindness and consideration to all the support personel, because they are the ones that are going to make your travel experience more comfortable and enjoyable.

In contrast, when I drive I almost never allow others to help me, whether that means loading groceries, my chair in or out of my vehicle and so on.

If you have a routine and most of us do, it's far easier to follow through with that then get off track with someone else's well-meaning intentions. You know what I mean.

I think that just about sums up my thoughts about this aspect of disabled living.



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