I’ve always wondered, if it happened, how I would get off one of those planes that doesn’t line up next to the bridge of the airport and only has stairs leading down to the Tarmac. Landing at Rome’s Fiumicino airport, I found out how it was done. I’m not sure exactly what it’s called, but there was this large box-like vehicle that drove right up to the plane and the airport staff wheeled me into it using one of their narrow aisle wheelchairs, transferred me to my wheelchair, and then it drove a short distance, lowered to the ground, and I was immediately ushered into an accessible van, and led to the airport’s entrance.
I flew with Air Canada and I should note that they did not use a slider sheet or a lift to transfer me from the airplane seat to the narrower chair that fits through the aisles, but instead one person lifted me under the arms and the other under the legs, which is always a bit awkward but it works.
The staff at Fiumicino, part of the ADR Assistance team, are really great. When I arrived in Rome, two people helped me from the point of getting off the plane up to finding my waiting ride, at no extra cost. Upon leaving Rome, ADR staff helped me again from check-in to boarding the plane.
While I was in that box-like vehicle (if you know what it’s called, let me know) I noticed that one of my foot pedals had become bent out of shape; at first, I thought it could be righted with a little effort, but no, it was really twisted. I should have taken them off and brought them aboard with me like I was thinking, but in the end I thought, no, they’re really sturdy, they’ll be fine. I’ve learned my lesson. Nothing else at the time was damaged because I lowered the armrests to their base, removed the driving stick and tilt switch, and seat cushion. One broken foot pedal was an inconvenience, but not the worst thing that could have happened.
Once we were inside the airport, the two ADR staff showed me and my travelling companions where to get our luggage and then led us to baggage services where I made a claim for the damage on my chair which took about an hour. Later, I was put in contact with a company called Scoot Around who then tried to find another company to repair the damages, but unfortunately, they could not find a company in Italy that deals with Quickie wheelchairs. So, I relied on the one good foot pedal for the duration of my trip.
On the return flight, I had to go to baggage services again because a bit more damage was done to my chair. I don’t get too nonplussed about these things because after flying enough times my expectations are rather low with regards to how my chair will be handled (it is very heavy, so there’s that) and in my experience, most airlines are prepared to pay for any damage and will try to send someone to fix it during your holiday if they can.
That about sums up my experiences at the airport this time around. My next post will discuss the awesome hotel that I stayed at in Rome.