The fog of moving twice in a year and the accompanying feeling of where in the world am I, coupled with bad knee and back pain, I finally managed to feel mentally capable…. and decided to finally plan to take the long trip overseas to visit my daughter and family.
However, as time went on, I became less sure that I could manage (physically). A good friend suggested that I request assistance (wheelchair) in the airports, and to be met at the airport for luggage assistance by friends and/or family. I agreed, and changed my mind several times. Ha
The day came…..
First leg: The assistance in DFW airport USA and SCHIPOL, Netherlands was brilliant!!
My side trip to England, SCHIPOL was again brilliant, and arrival in London Stansted was great.
My return from England to Netherlands through Stansted was a great adventure!! My arrival into SCHIPOL was again great!! Back to the Stansted adventure!
When we arrived my friend helped me find the assistance desk. (It was a very large area surrounded with portable “walls.” On a plain folding table there was a computer and two people sitting behind it. Obviously a temporary location. ) One person took my information and write it down manually. This was at 2:45pm London time, exactly two hours before departure. Lots was going on. (They refused a chair pusher because she had friends with her, but they also had carryon luggage. A man got sick and was wheeled to first aid, abandoning their luggage. When they returned, my nostrils along with an overheard conversation, learned that he needed a change of pants. How very sad and awkward for them. She also said she could care less about their luggage.)
Apparently the assistance desk was not adequately prepared for all of us needing assistance. I waited to be called. At 345 I went back to the desk to inquire when I was going to be assisted. The woman (a different one) asked my flight time. When I told her 445 she kind of went into intense search mode and I became the person to be helped before anyone else. (A take-charge young woman took my chair in hand and we were off to the races.)
This woman (the chair pusher) zipped my chair behind and in front of people zig-zagging and fortunately missing them by centimeters. We came upon a very long queue (line) in the accessibility lane-it was out into the lobby. Lots of baby strollers and adult push chairs – a mess. My pusher went to the front of the line, and called for reinforcements to get this line moving so folks could get to security. We got through, and more zooming. I was holding on for reinforcements. If she had hit anyone, I would have gone flying– phew. We got through border security, and then through regular security. And then more racing… we then needed to board an inter-terminal train to get to the right location for our gate. Once there, and up an elevator, I was handed off to another pusher. She said that she thinks the chaos was caused by the new rules imposed on Stansted employees. This made a shortage. The next pusher stopped so I could use the loo/toilet/restroom, and then I arrived at my gate. Another person (a man who speaks seven languages) needing assistance was there. I would like to say that this was the end of the adventure, but alas it is not!!
All of a sudden all the other passengers showed up and formed a very long queue. The plane was going to be full. Once the plane finally arrived and those passengers started to disembark, the queue started being screened to walk down the stairs to await boarding.
Our pushers finally arrived. They took us in a direction that felt away from the plane, but we took an elevator down to another exit onto the tarmac. Our assistance vehicle had not arrived yet. The following photo is from Schiphol. But the same type vehicle is used. A lift in front to take us up into the vehicle, and then the vehicle rises up to the door of the airplane.
Sooooo we waited and watched the other passengers board the plane. The pushers made several calls. They said it would be here but was very busy. Then we went out on the tarmac and the other wheelchair occupant and I started talking out loud “surely they won’t leave us!” “Well at least the power is still hooked up.” “Uh oh, luggage area closed up.” “Back stairs removed.” “Front machine on plane removed.” Only power and front steps remained. Our pushers went to the plane a few times to be sure there were still seats and room for our carryon luggage.
Then finally one of the pushers said the vehicle was 5 minutes away. I took a selfie just before the vehicle arrived.
The vehicle arrived. The driver said that he had just helped 7 passengers who were not able to walk even. Poor guy.
I asked, are they all going to throw rotten tomatoes at us? We were greeted and told to sit in row 5. They reserved a whole row for us. They had to put our luggage on row 26. We finally took off an hour late (20-30 minutes was waiting for us).
When the plane landed we waited for all other passengers in the front row. Ha ha ha… the vehicle in SCHIPOL arrived at the back door. When we got to the terminal only one wheel chair was available for two of us. Fortunately the walk was short and manageable.
Phew! If you got this far, thanks for reading!!
PS… I’m so glad I requested assistance. I did not realize how much my situation has deteriorated.