One of the things that one learns while involved in travel is that it can be a tough experience when one has mobility issues. While I have been doing so far myself with such concerns, it must be admitted that there are definitely good days and bad days as far as my feet are concerned. This time, though, it was my mother’s mobility, her inability easily walk long distances and climb unsteady stars such as were present on this flight, that allowed for me the opportunity to see how it is that mobility issues can lead to problems in travel, which is true even though one does not tend to move around all that often on a plane in the first place.
How is the airport experience when one is challenged in mobility? Well, first there is the place where one awaits and then sits in a wheelchair in an area near check-in. As it happens, we had plenty of people waiting, some of whom (like my mother) had someone to help push them, and it took quite a bit of time to get a group of people ready to head to security. There is a secondary area for going through security that is accessible for people involved in various business of logistics as well as the handicapped, and while watching a boisterous drug sniffing job bound around the people in the main security line, we stood to wait a long time for reasons unknown to me. After a while we were able to make it through the line, doing the usual security line things, and then we were off to our various gates to wait.
One of the things I noticed about Spirit Airlines was that they had rather ambitious scheduling in their gates, pushing flights through frequently. So it was that the people sitting at the gate were mostly waiting for their flights to Ponce in Puerto Rico, including one of the other wheelchairs in our convey that got to the gate just in time to get on their plane, which is cutting it a bit close. As for us, we were able to wait a bit, so I got to sit at least for a while before it came our turn to board the plane.
As far as mobility is concerned, the next thing of notice happened when we landed in St. Thomas. St. Thomas’ airport is charming and cute, reminding one of a hotel in terms of its layout and construction plan from the outside. We did not get to see it for a long while from the inside, though, and for very briefly, because we had to wait in the plane for a lift to come as there was no gate properly but rather a stairwell coming down from the plane that my mother was having issues with. There is apparently only one lift truck in the airport and it goes from plane to plane, helping people deplane from a previous flight while also helping them get into the plane for the next flight more or less simultaneously.
One of the notable aspects of our trip that I found to be very curious was the way in which it was evident that there were a lot of miscommunications with regards to the staff that were helping. It was hard to communicate to everyone in a convoy of wheelchairs being pushed that they were viewed as part of the same group when going through security, so things had to be recommunicated about who was to stand where and what the order was of people going through. Similarly, there were communications difficulties about who had their own wheelchair and who needed to use the ones at the airport. It does appear, at least, that many airports need to drastically improve their communication when it comes to the ways in which they serve those who have problems with mobility. But, it should be remembered, we could all stand to do better in communication.