You think holiday air travel sucks? Try flying while disabled. On American Airlines.
Having to rely on other people all the time is one of the most difficult parts of life in a wheelchair. Those of us who use wheelchairs and other mobility assistance devices don’t need more difficulty in our lives. But that’s what we get when we try to exercise our basic right to move around the country.
Accessibility — on airlines, on streets, in buildings, and in software and devices — isn’t a convenience issue. It’s a human rights issue. Basic things are supposed to be available to everybody. Whole communities can be denied access to those things because of some bigot who refuses to serve “Those Kind of people” based on God knows what. A person who has a mobility impairment can also be denied access because the ramps at their nearest public transportation station were vandalized a few months ago at a certain station and were never repaired.
The end-result is the same.
There’s some optimism in Sawyer Rosenstein’s story; he’s had similar problems with JetBlue and United, and reports that both airlines took his complaints seriously and addressed the underlying problems.
I’m flying out for the MacTech conference in LA tomorrow. Today was the first time ever, I think, that I upgraded my seating in advance, explicitly, instead of as a spur-of-the-moment thing at checkin because I was tired or the kiosk offered me a deal.
I don’t care so much about the extra six inches of legroom. I just wanted the Group 1 boarding. Even that isn’t precisely the big Get: I just want to avoid those tiny little cuts when I get my boarding passes and find out that I lost the big lottery. Group 4: scum class. “You may board after every category of desirable passenger has already seated themselves and stowed their luggage.”
I don’t fly enough to rate upgrade rewards and even if a speaking committee offered me First Class tickets, I’d probably ask them to put me in an aisle seat and coach and we could split the price difference in class.
I wish airlines had a sort of Frequent Flier program just for seat upgrades. Like, after I’ve bought $X worth of Group One Boarding privileges, I can spend some of my points and get to board the plane with the soldiers on my next flight.
So why did I do this ahead of time?
Because I’m old and tired. Or, maybe more experienced and wise. Whatever, I’m encouraging myself to look at experiences that I dread and try to identify elements of it in which the awfulness is largely voluntary. So this time, I’m paying for early boarding, and I’m taking an afternoon flight from a regional airport instead of leaving at oh-my-god o’clock to get to an 8 AM flight from a larger airport that everyone’s trying to get to, all at once.
(I am a mental powerhouse. I only have to keep my hand on a hot stove for twenty years before I give oven mitts a try.)