I went to Oklahoma City this past weekend to visit one of my good friends. When it became closer to the time for him to drive me back to Abilene, because of my still healing broken femur (long story), I decided to book a one way flight instead of having him make an eight hour roundtrip. After booking the flight using 7,000 AAdvantage miles, I called American Airlines to request a wheelchair.
The automated system alerted me to a wait but assured me that my place in line would be saved. I was to receive a call back within six minutes. After waiting a few minutes, I received a voicemail notification. It was from the airline. I called the AAdvantage desk again. My place in line was reconfirmed and updated. The system assured me that I would receive a call within eight minutes.
Once I received the call back, the agent stated it would not be an issue to add the wheelchair request to my reservation. The request was fairly straight forward, but she put me on a brief hold. Once the agent returned, the conversation started over. I had to again explain my request. The agent added the wheelchair to my itinerary.
I received an email confirmation, but still verified the request on the airline’s app.
The agent gave me three things to do on travel day to confirm the request:
- Confirm wheelchair with agent at check in
- Confirm wheelchair in Dallas with flight attendant on flight from OKC
- Confirm wheelchair in Abilene with flight attendant on flight from DFW
The entire process (three phone calls) took about 16 minutes, which was not terribly bad.
Below is a play by play of the wheelchair services throughout my itinerary.
OKC/Will Rogers Airport:
- My friend carried my baggage to be checked and identification inside. He requested the wheelchair with the check in agent.
- A security staffer showed up with a chair a few minutes later. He asked my name and checked it off of a three-person list on his phone. I assume this was an internal list for those of needing special assistance (this was confirmed in Dallas).
- I was wheeled to the check in counter where I was handed boarding passes and given my identification.
- At this point, I was transferred to another agent, Amin. He wheeled me to the security checkpoint, where I provided my identification and boarding passes.
- Since I have TSA PreCheck, I entered that line. The crutches and contents of my pockets were placed on the belt to be scanned. As I looked up from the belt, a TSA agent provided me a cane to walk through the metal detector. On the other side, the agents assisted me in retrieving my contents and chatted me up about my injury.
- Amin and I were soon off to gate 6, which is in the middle of the terminal. He offered to let me keep sitting in the wheelchair, like another wheelchair passenger, until boarding but I decided to sit in a regular seat near the gate.
- Once boarding began, the other guy with a wheelchair was taken to the aircraft. When the agent returned, he kept walking back towards the check in counters. I proceeded to board, without assistance, with Group 1 because I am active duty military. Let me tell you, using crutches on the jet bridge was one of the sketchiest things I have ever done. Nevertheless, I made it on the airplane.
- Booking the “bulkhead” seat was perfect. It gave me plenty of room to stretch out my leg. As soon as I took the below picture, the flight attendant stored my crutches in the overhead bin.
At DFW Airport:
- As I deplaned, there was an agent and wheelchair waiting on the jet bridge. The agent, David, wheeled me to the gate area. He had to go back down the jet bridge for the other passenger. I assumed I would be taking the this sweet ride.
Sadly, it could not go to satellite Terminal E so I was stuck with this…
- David wheeled me through Terminal B to the SkyLink for the journey to terminal E. We used the elevators instead of the usual escalators. I never noticed the elevators until today.
- The journey to terminal E took about 30 minutes. There was about 20 minutes left until boarding for my next flight. The boarding area was crowded, due to flights to San Angelo, Abilene, and Colorado Springs leaving from the same area so I was left to stand until boarding began.
- Boarding began with Groups 1 through 4 being called. Surprisingly, there were only two other people on the jet bridge, which allowed me to take my time.
- Once on the airplane, the flight attendant asked if I would allow her to store my crutches in the crew closet to give me more room, of course I will. We noticed the seatbelt was broken when I arrived at the seat so the flight attendant quickly moved me to the bulkhead to give me more room to relax.
At ABI Airport:
- The flight attendant and other passengers allowed me to deplane first. I expected to be greeted by an agent with a wheelchair, much like the rest of the day, but no one was there. A folded wheelchair was leaned against the wall of the jet bridge. I made the walk through the terminal on my crutches.
The process for requesting special assistance was fairly easy. A few phone calls and having to repeat myself were minor issues. The agents throughout my journey were the most professional, courteous individuals. David and Amin obviously love their job because it showed through their attention to detail and level of service provided. Thanks to all of them for making the day a bit less painful.