My parents will be flying out to me in Ostersund, Sweden in a few months. They live in South Wales, and to avoid them the hassle of navigating LGW or LHR I'm looking at tickets via Amsterdam from Cardiff airport.
I was wondering if anyone has experience with getting support/assistance at these airport for disabled passengers. My father has had multiple heart attacks and a stroke in the past, and requires a walking stick to get around. My mother has fairly severe back problems that cause extended periods of walking to get fairly painful for her.
My worry is that to the airport personnel they might seem OK to get around by themselves, because technically they can walk. However, at airports the distance between gates and so on can often be very far and I'm almost certain my parents wouldn't be able to deal with so much walking around. Usually at e.g. supermarkets they're able to borrow electric wheelchairs. I'm not sure if these are available at airports? They both have the blue badge thing for parking and can provide letters from their doctors stating their disabilities. In addition, my parents will probably be carrying a fairly hefty amount of medication (my father has to take something like 6 pills every morning, 6 again at night, and my mother has morphine), should I get them to bring a letter for that also just in case?
I've never dealt with trying to get help for my parents before so any advice would be appreciated.
Aug 2, 10, 10:21 am
No, ECV's are not available at any of the European airports as far as I know of. Def not at Schiphol.
Contact the airline and have them note a mobility disability for both and the need for assistance. Have that in place for all of the airports. Since the EU passed legislation about this in 2007, all EU airports have to supply this type of assistance. Do NOT try to make it easy on the airline/airport by for instance stating 'can do so many steps if....... however, if..... they can do ..... amount of steps'. They do NOT understand those types of confusing details and things will get screwed up. Make it plain and simple; both need assistance due to mobility disability leaving them unable to navigate the airport themselves. For these types of things the airline uses codes. No need for you to know them or use them, but it can sometimes be handy in knowing how they make distinctions. Most EU airports use them in this distinction (AMS does, amongst others);
WCHR; passenger can only walk short distances, 20/50 meters
WCHS; passenger can't walk long distances or navigate stairs
There are more for no ability of walking etc. but those wouldn't be the case for them.
At AMS AAC (Axxicom Airport Caddy) provides these types of services. It's an outsourced company, as most airports at the EU do (within the EU the airports are responsible!). AAC is a very customer orientated company in my experience. They tend to have the opinion of "you tell us how we'll proceed, not us tell you, as you know your abilities best". At some times it can get quite busy for these services though, which can result in them prioritising (as is done at each airport I've ever done). Options at AMS are they'll either pick them up with a wheelchair and roll them to the next gate or have a electric car waiting with driver. These things are large, need some ability to climb. I think about 20 centimeters or something? Be vocal if that's not an option.
As these are both Schengen-flights, they are contained to about half of Schiphol, only terminals 1 and 2. Which airline are they on? Depending on the arrival gate, it can still be a long hike or a very short one. Worst for this are gate B in the higher numbers and B in the low numbers. That's like having to walk from Amsterdam to Haarlem. :p If for whatever reason you do not trust the airline to take care of things, you can contact AAC at Schiphol yourself. Via phone; 003120-4057900 or 003120-4069809 or via mail; firstname.lastname@example.org or via www.schiphol.nl
No need for proof or anything with regards to the assistance. Only thing you need to do is contact the airline no later than 48 hours prior to the first flight. They need to be at the check in desk no later than 1 hour prior to the flight OR the time set after discussing assistance with the airline. If they 'meet up' with assistance at another point prior to check in; this needs to be no later than 2 hours prior to the flight OT the time set after discussing assistance with the airline. Also, if they need one, they are allowed to have a bathroom stop while assistance in 'in place'. So for instance while they're being pushed from one gate to another at AMS. The can 'go potty' and the person providing assistance will have to wait and proceed assisting them to the end of where they need to be.
For the airport at Cardiff; talk to your parents about when they'll need help. Many airports now also offer assistance before reaching the check in desk. If they need help before that; inform about that also. At the arriving airport; assistance is always in place until at least a meet up point after baggage claim as per EU legislation. Beyond that; it's upto the airport what they do provide or not.
As far as the meds goes; even within the EU you'll need the appropriate papers to be travelling with certain drugs legally. Opioids, like morphine, are amongst those. Without the proper papers, if they do get checked, they could be in a lot of trouble. Basically have their doc make a note with all of their info in it (name, date of birth etc.), names of meds -pref. also with name of working substance as brandnames can vary per country-, dosage and docs info like name, address, his/her signature etc. Some EU countries have something called a medical passport. While this is a nice addition, it's not always enough. Some countries will even require you to seek approval prior to the trip through the Ambassy or gouvernment before being able to import meds like opioids legally. AMS will be no problem when having the doc's note and keeping the meds in their original containers with the pharmacy label on it. Heck, they won't even see any marrechaussee (branch that's responsible for Dutch boarder protection) anyway for this trip. They'll stay within the same cleared space and as such won't be checked unless there's a heightened risk awareness going on or if they'ld accidently try to wonder into terminal 3 -which assistance, no risk of that!-. In the very odd chance they do get a check AND they ask about it -again a long shot- the papers are enough. Don't know about Sweden, you'll have to check their customs regulations about that one.
You might also want to check out usage of their parking badge while in Sweden. If it's a EU parking badge (it'll be clear when looking at it), they can use it at Sweden without having to do anything other than bring it along. Even if they park at Cardiff, that means they'll still have the other one to use in Sweden.
Aug 4, 10, 6:50 am
Above answer was very complete, the only things I can add is to call the airlines to be sure that their reservation has been updated with "needs assistance" notation and talk to your folks before they travel and encourage them to ask and/or accept help if/when/before they need it. For me that is the hardest part, my folks don't want to bother anyone and will not ask for help, even if they need it. That being said, I think you will find most airports/airlines will be helpful. Safe travels for the folks.
Will Fly Småland
Aug 6, 10, 3:52 pm
As these are both Schengen-flights, they are contained to about half of Schiphol, only terminals 1 and 2.
Not a big deal, but I don't think Wales is inside Schengen...
Aug 8, 10, 9:07 pm
Also make sure that your parents understand that they should not leave the plane until their wheelchairs arrive. If someone suggests that they should leave the plane and walk to the gate they should refuse. Walking up the jetway is some of the most hazardous walking in the entire airport. If your parents stay on the plane the flight attendants will make sure the wheelchairs arrive. If they get off to wait at the gate they may not be as successful.
Just last week my wheelchair was very late to arrive at the plane. The flight attendants tried several times to convince me to walk up the jetway and wait at the gate. I just told them I could not do that because I knew as long as I was on the plane someone would get help for me. If I left and walked to the gate, since there was no gate agent there, I could have waited for hours.
It is also very wise to make sure your parents do not try to exert their independence. They are elderly, and have taken their share of steps. It is now time to let others take a few steps for them.
Sep 14, 10, 2:35 pm
I got stuck in LHR's Special Assistance holding tank in April 2003 between United planes. (They thought since my legs didn't work, my brain didn't either) and refused for hours to tell me my flight was cancelled. Kept asking me where my caretaker was, who was meeting me in Chicago (I was flying Glasgow-Heathrow-Chicago-LAX-Costa Rica but they never bothered to look beyond the first flight). I had to threaten to sue them to get on another flight. I would not put anyone needing assistance through LHR on a bet.
Schipol is much much better. They sometimes want to put you in a very nice holding room or Member Club room if you have a long layover, but if you say you want to go to the departure concourse asap to shop or eat, no problem.
I've been thru there on several airlines and never any trouble.
But, stay away from American Airlines anywhere. THey are worse than LHR by far.