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> Flights and Airports, Accessibility of flying
leahmarb
post Nov 15 2008, 11:39 PM
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Hi everyone,

Im new here, but i was wondering if anyone had any comments about flying on aeroplanes, both international and domestic flights.

I recently flew to Brisbane and went to the trouble of obtaining the Leggera Supa Compatta from Di Vinci Wheelchairs in Liverpool (England), which collapses and fits in an overhead locker, but it does not fit down the isle. I made sure that i was within the size and weight restrictions that are stated on the Qantas website. Qantas refused to allow me to take the wheelchair on board with me, using both the excuse of the chair being oversize and it being a safety hazard. I am able to transfer completely independently and would not need any assistance if i did not need to use the isle chair to get from my wheelchair to my seat.

I was just wondering if anyone else had any comments about flying or lack of flying due to the restrictions that the airlines impose on people that they term as wheelchair passengers?

Would love to hear from anyone who would like to voice an opinion.

thank you.
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Sarge
post Nov 16 2008, 10:25 AM
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Hi Leahmarb,

It sounds like you use a manual wheelchair?

Just to give you a bit of a background about me, re flying.... I have a manual chair and can transfer myself, but not walk at all (T6 Complete Para). I also play National League Wheelchair Basketball and manage (incl. arrange all the flights for) a Women's National League Wheelchair Basketball Team. This means I often fly interstate with the various teams, as well as flying overseas & interstate with my wife (and now son) on holidays.

So here is how I do it...

Booking

Interstate
Basically I tend to use Qantas, who are pretty use to us, or Virgin for interstate flights. For Qantas you can book your flight on line but you must then phone them to let them know that you are in a chair. They will usually ask you the following questions: Is your chair manual or electric? Is it collapsible? what are the dimensions in cm? What is its weight? Do you need an Aisle chair? If you have these answers at hand it will make life very much easier for you and them. If you are travelling with a large group or team with wheelchairs, they will ensure that the type of aircraft they are using can accommodate so many wheelchair users both for the amount of cabin crew they must have on board for OH&S and for room in the cargo hold. Virgin is much the same except you actually phone to book, rather than book on line, but you are still given the online price.

International
Basically the same as above, again I tend to use Qantas or BA, mainly just because I use their frequent flyer points. Flying to Cape Town I did use South African Airways once, which is also affiliated to Qantas and they made me jump through all sorts of hoops filling in medical forms before they would decide whether I could fly with them or not! It was my first flight since injury so I didn't know any better. Ironically it turned out to be a Qantas aircraft anyway! I have since flown to S.Africa, Thailand, Singapore & Bali, internationally with out issue. You can request that an aisle chair be on board for the flight. Some airlines do this as a matter of course.

Logistics

When you arrive at check in you will normally check in your luggage and get your chair tagged at the same time. But tell them you will take your chair right to the aircraft door (or at least the departure gate). I would recommend this for two reasons: 1. You are a lot more comfortable in your own chair and can push around the airport for the seemingly endless hours that you have to be at the airport prior to your flight nowadays and 2. Because if you are transferring onto your aisle chair at the door to the aircraft, all they have to do is take your chair straight down the steps of the concourse tunnel and in to the hold of the aircraft. This is means there is pretty much no chance (in my opinion) of you ending up at your destination while your chair is either in Outer Mongolia or still sitting on an airport loading dock somewhere! They will ask you if you want to take your cushion. I suggest you do for the same reason I just mentioned if it somehow becomes separated from your chair and also because you may want to sit on it if you are concerned about pressure areas.

You will be the first to board the aircraft. Once you get to the door of the aircraft you will transfer onto one of the airline or airport aisle chairs which will fit between the seats. You are then wheeled on to the aircraft, as your own chair is taken down to the aircraft hold (unless it fits in an overhead locker). You will transfer from the aisle chair to your seat. Note if you fly business class or first class, although they are great for the way the seats can recline automatically and that they have so many seat adjustments and particularly that they can go completely flat into beds on long haul flights, the arms can not be lifted up. This means you have to transfer over the top of the arms. Enjoy your flight. When you get near to your destination ask the cabin crew if someone can radio ahead and make sure that when you land someone will get your wheelchair and bring it up to the door of the aircraft. You will then get off the way you got on. You will be the last to leave the aircraft.

Ablutions

Everybody manages flights versus toilets a different way. Some use the aisle chair constantly with the help of the cabin crew and consequently drive the cabin crew nuts! Some dehydrate themselves prior to the flight and don't drink anything the whole flight (I don't recommend that!), some, male and female, get their partner/travelling companion to hold up a blanket and pee into a bottle. What I do:- Although I normally Intermittently Self Catheterise, for a long flight (Sydney to Perth or international), I use an indwelling catheter and once my leg bag gets full I discreetly connect it to a night bag (2litre bag), which I keep in an opaque plastic shopping bag, empty the leg bag and my wife, who I am normally travelling with, will take the shopping bag to the loo and empty the night bag and bring both the night bag and shopping bag back to our seats ready for next time. If using this method, I don't recommend over use of the duty free as I have found that getting your partner to constantly run up and down to the toilet for you, while you just sit and drink champagne etc. proves not to be the most harmonious start to a holiday!
If I was travelling on my own, I would simply take a number of night bags and take the shopping bag with any full night bags out to the airport with me when we land and empty them at the first toilet I came across.

General Health

Some people in wheelchairs are concerned about DVT, Deep Vein Thrombosis, and will wear TED stockings to help prevent this. Talk to your GP and see what he/she recommends.

Remember to pressure lift if you are not sitting on your wheelchair cushion, or some other pressure relief cushion. You are going to be sitting in the same position for quite some time and the seats, particularly in economy class, are not that well padded. If you are sitting on a RoHo or other inflatable cushion ensure that you check the pressure of the cushion once the aircraft has reached it's cruising height, as the air will have expanded inside the cushion and you may well be sitting on something as soft as a rock!


Well that's about everything I can think of.

Happy Flying.


--------------------
SARGE
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leahmarb
post Sep 11 2009, 01:31 PM
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Hi Sarge,

Thank you for all the info. Yes i do fly with a manual wheelchair. I do still find that both interstate and international travel is a constant battle with airline policy. I only need the aisle chair to get from the mouth of the plane to my seat other than that i need no assistance. I cant wait for some of the new technology that is being developed for wheelchairs to be completed so that it will be possible for my everday wheelchair to convert into a skinny isle chair and then i would not need any assistance. biggrin.gif




QUOTE (Sarge @ Nov 16 2008, 08:25 AM) *
Hi Leahmarb,

It sounds like you use a manual wheelchair?

Just to give you a bit of a background about me, re flying.... I have a manual chair and can transfer myself, but not walk at all (T6 Complete Para). I also play National League Wheelchair Basketball and manage (incl. arrange all the flights for) a Women's National League Wheelchair Basketball Team. This means I often fly interstate with the various teams, as well as flying overseas & interstate with my wife (and now son) on holidays.

So here is how I do it...

Booking

Interstate
Basically I tend to use Qantas, who are pretty use to us, or Virgin for interstate flights. For Qantas you can book your flight on line but you must then phone them to let them know that you are in a chair. They will usually ask you the following questions: Is your chair manual or electric? Is it collapsible? what are the dimensions in cm? What is its weight? Do you need an Aisle chair? If you have these answers at hand it will make life very much easier for you and them. If you are travelling with a large group or team with wheelchairs, they will ensure that the type of aircraft they are using can accommodate so many wheelchair users both for the amount of cabin crew they must have on board for OH&S and for room in the cargo hold. Virgin is much the same except you actually phone to book, rather than book on line, but you are still given the online price.

International
Basically the same as above, again I tend to use Qantas or BA, mainly just because I use their frequent flyer points. Flying to Cape Town I did use South African Airways once, which is also affiliated to Qantas and they made me jump through all sorts of hoops filling in medical forms before they would decide whether I could fly with them or not! It was my first flight since injury so I didn't know any better. Ironically it turned out to be a Qantas aircraft anyway! I have since flown to S.Africa, Thailand, Singapore & Bali, internationally with out issue. You can request that an aisle chair be on board for the flight. Some airlines do this as a matter of course.

Logistics

When you arrive at check in you will normally check in your luggage and get your chair tagged at the same time. But tell them you will take your chair right to the aircraft door (or at least the departure gate). I would recommend this for two reasons: 1. You are a lot more comfortable in your own chair and can push around the airport for the seemingly endless hours that you have to be at the airport prior to your flight nowadays and 2. Because if you are transferring onto your aisle chair at the door to the aircraft, all they have to do is take your chair straight down the steps of the concourse tunnel and in to the hold of the aircraft. This is means there is pretty much no chance (in my opinion) of you ending up at your destination while your chair is either in Outer Mongolia or still sitting on an airport loading dock somewhere! They will ask you if you want to take your cushion. I suggest you do for the same reason I just mentioned if it somehow becomes separated from your chair and also because you may want to sit on it if you are concerned about pressure areas.

You will be the first to board the aircraft. Once you get to the door of the aircraft you will transfer onto one of the airline or airport aisle chairs which will fit between the seats. You are then wheeled on to the aircraft, as your own chair is taken down to the aircraft hold (unless it fits in an overhead locker). You will transfer from the aisle chair to your seat. Note if you fly business class or first class, although they are great for the way the seats can recline automatically and that they have so many seat adjustments and particularly that they can go completely flat into beds on long haul flights, the arms can not be lifted up. This means you have to transfer over the top of the arms. Enjoy your flight. When you get near to your destination ask the cabin crew if someone can radio ahead and make sure that when you land someone will get your wheelchair and bring it up to the door of the aircraft. You will then get off the way you got on. You will be the last to leave the aircraft.

Ablutions

Everybody manages flights versus toilets a different way. Some use the aisle chair constantly with the help of the cabin crew and consequently drive the cabin crew nuts! Some dehydrate themselves prior to the flight and don't drink anything the whole flight (I don't recommend that!), some, male and female, get their partner/travelling companion to hold up a blanket and pee into a bottle. What I do:- Although I normally Intermittently Self Catheterise, for a long flight (Sydney to Perth or international), I use an indwelling catheter and once my leg bag gets full I discreetly connect it to a night bag (2litre bag), which I keep in an opaque plastic shopping bag, empty the leg bag and my wife, who I am normally travelling with, will take the shopping bag to the loo and empty the night bag and bring both the night bag and shopping bag back to our seats ready for next time. If using this method, I don't recommend over use of the duty free as I have found that getting your partner to constantly run up and down to the toilet for you, while you just sit and drink champagne etc. proves not to be the most harmonious start to a holiday!
If I was travelling on my own, I would simply take a number of night bags and take the shopping bag with any full night bags out to the airport with me when we land and empty them at the first toilet I came across.

General Health

Some people in wheelchairs are concerned about DVT, Deep Vein Thrombosis, and will wear TED stockings to help prevent this. Talk to your GP and see what he/she recommends.

Remember to pressure lift if you are not sitting on your wheelchair cushion, or some other pressure relief cushion. You are going to be sitting in the same position for quite some time and the seats, particularly in economy class, are not that well padded. If you are sitting on a RoHo or other inflatable cushion ensure that you check the pressure of the cushion once the aircraft has reached it's cruising height, as the air will have expanded inside the cushion and you may well be sitting on something as soft as a rock!


Well that's about everything I can think of.

Happy Flying.

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