Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Come Fly With Me

My in-laws will by now be approaching Dubai, en route for Brisbane. Thankfully, the strong winds that we’ve been experiencing in this part of the UK have subsided, so at least take-off should have been fairly smooth. However, I don’t envy them the long flight ahead.

Although hardly a seasoned traveller, I have found that flying can offer some very interesting experiences for the visually-impaired. For example, like other disabled customers, we can arrange special assistance at airports to help get us to and from the plane. In the bad old days, this might simply have involved providing a wheelchair, regardless of your type of disability. Better still, a few years ago on arrival into Amsterdam, we received some rather special treatment to help us get to a connecting flight. Obviously well trained in the need to protect the disabled customer’s dignity, our guide led the way at high speed, pushing through the busy airport and yelling “Blind Man! Blind Man!” at bemused travellers, as we followed on behind, apologetically.

However, it’s not all bad. Once on board the plane, the visually-impaired traveller is often treated to some extra close attention from the flight crew. On my only trip down under, flying with Singapore Airlines, my wife regularly reminds me of the time I accepted assistance for a guiding arm from the stewardess, to help me back to my seat from a trip to the gents. I maintain to this day that it was a complete accident that I grabbed the lady’s breast, and that I let go of it pretty sharpish. My wife claims she has never known me go to the toilet so much, and I think there is a fair chance that, if I ever go to Singapore again, I will immediately be arrested.

I’ve noticed that, with some airlines, assistance sometimes takes the form of being escorted onto the plane first. Next time this happens, as we’re walking past the other passengers, I think I might remark to my guide, in a nice loud voice, that “As the airlines first blind pilot, I don’t want to ruin my first flight by taking off late.”

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