Saturday, 21 June 2014

At the airport and on the Plane

First of all before you leave the house double check you have all your essentials. Don't forget Kevin! (A la Home Alone.) Check windows are shut and doors are locked etc. Then put your keys somewhere safe in your hand luggage. 

If you have booked special assistance then before you check in you may need to visit the special assistance desk first. It depends on what services you have requested. Should you require it a member of the airports special assistance team can meet you at a certain drop off point, to help with luggage etc or to push you and help you through the airport if you are travelling alone.

If you are using your own manual wheelchair then don't forget to take any allan keys or repair tools out of your chair at security and put them them in the tray to go through the scanner. In fact you are best telling the security person and they will do this. 

Whether you are in your own wheelchair/ scooter or one of the airports you don't get taken through the body scanner. A member of the security team (a male for males and female for females) will do a pat search of yourself and your chair. They should ask you whether you are in any pain and obviously they will take this in to consideration. They will also take a swab of your shoes. Also be aware that while you are being searched that no one else from your party can come to move you until you have been cleared. 

If you are in an electric wheelchair/ mobilty scooter make sure you are complying with all the regulations, which you can see in your airlines special assistance guidelines.

If you have a longer flight you may want to purchase any snacks/drinks at the airport. Download an app called gateguru, which tells you what shops and restaurants are at different airports across the globe (not all are covered though unfortunately but you may be able to find out more at the airports website.)

Use your time at the airport to relax and try to have something to eat/drink. You will already have used up a lot of energy getting to airport and through check in and security so refuelling is important. If you do not use a scooter or wheelchair or borrowed one of the airports then make sure you properly sit down to relax as much as you can before boarding. Close your eyes and practise mindful breathing, shutting out the rest of the world every so often too to give you a mini refresh.

Put on any flight socks/ compression stockings before you get onto the plane as you won't have much room to get them on once on the plane.

If you have booked special assistance you may be boarded first or last. It depends too if you are opting to use the lift or are happy to climb the steps. Either way identify yourself as a special assistance user so that the cabin crew know and can take you to your seat. Remember the special assistance team that help you through the airport and to the plane are from a different company to your airline. This can be all the more important on flights that have a quick turn around, where pretty much as soon as the arriving passengers disembark the outbound passengers are getting on. I've been in the lift whilst passengers have been getting on board. This can mean that the allocated seats for special assistance users don't get mark as reserved and other passengers could sit on them at first. Depending on whether your airline does allocated seats of course; both in general and for special assistance users.

If you are using the lift then you enter the plane via the opposite side so the cabin crew will automatically know that you are a special assistance service user. Do not rush yourself. If you need to wait till the aisle is clear then do so. Or if you need the onboard wheelchair to get your seat then a member of cabin crew will help you.

If you have a cushion on your wheelchair don't forget to take it with you before your chair gets taken to the airplanes hold and don't forget to take it off the plane with you. It can be useful too for extra comfort for your back or for use as a pillow. Just another quick note on personal wheelchairs it may be useful to pack (in your main bag) a tiny tube of super glue should anything break. Last year one of my foot plates snapped. I'm sure it wasn't a handling issue though just from being in the hold of the transfer coach and plane.

Like I said in my post on hand luggage, keep your essentials close to you. Even if you have a separate bag that you can keep with you, if your main bag is too big. What you need depends on how you cope with flying and all the extra sensory stimulants. I put my travel sickness bands on as soon as I'm in my seat and always have a boiled sweet or lollypop handy if I need help to pop my ears or some mints if I start feeling a bit sick. I would also keep a sleep mask/ sun glasses and head phones/ ear defenders handy too if you have particular sensitivities to light and sound. On my last flight during take off I really suffered with the change in air pressure etc and felt realy dizzy and hot. Luckily I had some face wipes handy to help cool me down, so I thoroughly recommend them.

Also if you have an inflatable neck pillow, I recommend blowing it up before take off due to the change in air pressure or any dizziness as it will obviously make you more so. Or get someone else to help you with this. If you are suffering from any dizziness always wait until the plane has reached it's cruise altitude before leaving your seat, should you need to. Leaving your seat as soon as the seat belt sign is off can lead to a dizzy spell (curse you nervous bladder.)

Remember to put any electronic devices that you have onto aeroplane mode and also that you cannot use them during take off and landing. It always gets kindle readers that one!

During your flight try to relax and make yourself as comfortable as possible. If you can, put your legs up. This will obviously depend on seat allocation and how many others are using the special assistance seats. Or elevate them by putting them on your bag under the seat.

If you are sat by the window shut the blind if you are suffering from the brightness or a sleep mask. A hat can also be great for keeping the sun out of your eyes on a flight. Take care when moving from looking out of the window to inside as turning your head quickly between the different types of light can cause you to feel quite dizzy. 

If you are a nervous flyer then try and practise some mindfulness techniques, focus on your breathing or listen to some calming music. I have a fear of turbulence, the last time I flew I was just in a constant state of panic, which of course is not good for my other symptoms. I think this comes from a fear of being sick/ill as well. I know that sounds a bit crazy for a sick chick to say but I mean actually vomitting. I hate it. And when you suffer from motion/travel sickness the added stress of turbulance can obviously make you more fearful. I think the trick is to not let your brain catostrophise and get carried away. Sometimes our own thoughts can rush until we start imagining the worst possible situation. So try to distract those thoughts. Again do mindful breathing or focus on calming music. 

I have viewed a few videos on youtube about fear of flying psychology and ways to help you cope. I really recommend the ones by Tom Bunn a former aeroplane captain turned psychologist. There are also some from Virgin Atlantic that help explain all the different noises that go on during a flight as well as the movement of the wings. They've certainly helped me calm down but on the plane may be another story. However, I will certainly be trying out some of the techniques.

Do you have any tips for plane journeys?Or must do's at the airport? Please leave a comment if you have any tips.

Sian x

1 comment:

  1. My must do at the airport is make sure I go to the toilet whilst still on the ground! Standing on a flying plane makes me feel so ill and I want to avoid it at all costs!

    Also ... Vacation? Are you American now? ;)
    Great and useful post from you - as always!