Good Wheelchairs, Bad Wheelchairs

All airport wheelchair services are not created equal.  Many airports subcontract their wheelchair services to outside companies.  Some airports have the major carriers provide the wheelchair services at their gates.  For instance, Paris subcontracts service; Montreal does not.

After six wonderful days in Paris, we encountered the worst wheelchair service in 20 years of travel.  After checking in with the airline, I was requested to go to a handicapped area, check in and I’d been taken by wheelchair attendant to the gate.  We checked in and began our wait.  I’ve mentioned before the concept of giving up some control when you need handicapped services but I have never felt as though I was completely ignored.  After waiting for an hour, my husband asked when we would be transported to the gate, the person at the desk said “you have plenty of time”. But that wasn’t the question.  Thirty minutes later with no further information, I went to the desk and asked again and was told, wait your turn.  The person never looked up from her phone while answering me.  Now in the meantime, people who had arrived after us were being taken by wheelchair to their gate (which coincidently was the same gate as ours).  As formidably as I could, I told this person I felt as though I was being treated as a second class citizen because I am handicapped. That hurt, a lot.  And it was obvious, she didn’t care about her job or the people she served.  Oh yes and I demanded to see a supervisor.  By strange coincidence, a wheelchair attendant arrived within minutes and whisked me off to the departure gate.

As we finally board the flight from Paris with a connection in Montreal, we already know we missed our connecting flight home but at the gangway from the plane in Montreal we were met by an Air Canada Customer Service Rep with a wheelchair.  Julia’s incredibly pleasant and positive attitude changed our airport experience.  The “experience” included luggage not sent to Customs in Montreal; unable to board the flight that was waiting for us; losing baggage; finding baggage; cancellation of an alternative flight; problems at Canadian customs and more.  And still I was so impressed by Julia S from Air Canada Customer Service that I wrote to AC a recommendation for her services.  These problems would have happened whether I was in a wheelchair or not.  But with Julia, we had a guide through the complexities and distances of the airport and customs and immigration.  One truly caring person can make a difference and a good wheelchair experience.