Flying American Airlines with a wheelchair

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Recently, I flew from Honolulu to Milwaukee via Chicago on American Airlines and had a great experience.

Even though I had purchased a ticket at 10AM for a flight at 4PM the same day, the passenger services department gave me a call to ask me what my needs were for the flight. Because I had specified I used a wheelchair and would need assistance, they wanted to clarify a few things and see if I needed anything else. I don’t recall another airline doing this, but hopefully they are starting to.

Once I got to the airport things went very smoothly. I got there 2 hours early and I recommend getting there at least 2 hours in advance if you are using a wheelchair. It’s much easier for them to assist you when there’s not a long line of passengers waiting to make their flights. The counter agent was able to help me move my seat assignment and put a name tag on my wheelchair. She double-checked on my needs and sent me on my way to the gate.

I got the new pat-down at security, which was quite thorough, if you know what I mean. But since I only had a small carry-on without a computer, the security line and inspection was much easier than when I have a big old backpack and laptop that needs to be removed.

Once at the gate, I made the gate agent aware of my presence and got a claim tag for my wheelchair. She reconfirmed that I needed to be lifted from my wheelchair to the aisle chair, then from the aisle chair to my seat. Because I had specified that I would need at least 2 people to do this, that’s exactly what was sent to help me out. Occasionally an airline or passenger service company will only send one person down and it’s impossible to facilitate a transfer with only one person. But from my boarding in Honolulu to my transfer in Chicago to my arrival in Milwaukee, all the lifts and transfers went perfectly.

Of all the airports I have ever flown through, I think the boarding service at Chicago is by far the best. Milwaukee is very good too. FYI, I never know what I am going to get in Honolulu and flying Delta through Atlanta is usually a toss-up that ends up on the wrong side of the coin.

In any case, I arrived in one piece, as did my wheelchair. Everyone was nice throughout the trip. I do think it pays to have a positive attitude yourself and be gracious and pleasant to the flight attendants at all times, too, especially since they might get stuck on the plane waiting for you to be de-planed. This time, however, there was very little wait upon arrival and we all left quickly and on time.

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