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Proliferation of “assistance needed” passengers: safety issue?
Old 02-27-2018, 06:51 PM   #1
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Proliferation of “assistance needed” passengers: safety issue?

Getting ready to board our connecting flight home after a week away. I’ve noticed more people needing pre-boarding in a wheelchair on this trip. So far we’ve had 12, 9, and 8 passengers boarded with wheelchairs for the three flights on this trip.

We are flying on Southwest. In each case, the passengers who were unable to walk themselves down the jetway are sitting in aisle seats when I board. Sometimes they have family members sitting in their row, sometimes those seats are to be filled by passengers boarding later.

It occurred to me that if I had to sit in a row, blocked in by a passenger who is unable to board on their own, my safety is jeopardized. In the event of an evacuation, my exit is blocked (especially since many of the passengers needing wheelchairs are also very large, blocking my way out)

Have we just had a string of flights with an unusual number of motility-challenged, or is this a growing trend? Are airlines concerned about having so many seat-bound or slow-moving passengers clogging the evacuation?

(I realize that if my plane falls out of the air it’s not going to make a difference if a large, immobile passenger is between me and the aisle. I’m also still nimble enough to jump over the seats in a pinch)
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Old 02-27-2018, 06:56 PM   #2
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Well baby boomers are aging into seniors so maybe that's what we're seeing?

Thing is, I see a lot of passengers wheeled onto international flights.

If they need help boarding planes, what are they going to do once they arrive at their destination?

Maybe it's not leisure trip for them, so someone will take care of them?

I've seen people wheeled around occasionally at big tourist attractions but not too many. Yet a long international flight you'd see quite a few being wheeled on or off the plane.
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Old 02-27-2018, 07:21 PM   #3
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It occurred to me that if I had to sit in a row, blocked in by a passenger who is unable to board on their own, my safety is jeopardized. In the event of an evacuation, my exit is blocked (especially since many of the passengers needing wheelchairs are also very large, blocking my way out.
I hadn't thought of this before, but I believe children in car seats are required to be at the window (or in the middle if there's another kid in a car seat at the window) so adults won't be trapped between them and the aisle in case of emergency. I'd rather scramble over a kid in a car seat than a full-size adult who has mobility problems.
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Old 02-27-2018, 08:08 PM   #4
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This is a trend.
DW used to work with an airline. A number of "assistance needed" people would show up and expect to be given first class seats if any were available. Really miffed DW.

PF33, I have noted the same safety issue you have. As a result, I try for seats just behind the middle, wing exits. That way, the "assisted" passengers are all near the front plane exits and the middle should be open for able bodied to get out quickly over the wings. On flights only 2/3 full, both the middle and rear exits should be easily available.
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Old 02-27-2018, 08:49 PM   #5
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I hadn't thought of this before, but I believe children in car seats are required to be at the window (or in the middle if there's another kid in a car seat at the window) so adults won't be trapped between them and the aisle in case of emergency. I'd rather scramble over a kid in a car seat than a full-size adult who has mobility problems.
People with mobility issues can't necessarily climb into middle and window seats. It takes a gymnast to get into those, even if you are first on the plane. I believe on Southwest, the attendants prefer to seat people on the aisle because it's easier to get them out in an emergency and the path to the bathrooms is easier.

You are going to climb over people in an emergency? Hope I'm not sitting between you and the emergency exit if an emergency occurs...
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Old 02-27-2018, 09:06 PM   #6
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Two observations:
- If you are not mobility impaired, it is not very hard to stand on your seat and climb over a seat back to go forward or back one row.
- I'm more concerned about the airlines seating very large people near the window exits. I have seen people who can clearly not fit through that opening seated at the exit. No amount of pushing will get them through, so they will be blocking an exit needed by others and also "swimming upstream" against the crowd to reach a door that will work for them.
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Old 02-27-2018, 09:09 PM   #7
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I'm I bad to say it seems like some (not all) of these people are gaming the system?
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Old 02-27-2018, 09:21 PM   #8
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I'm I bad to say it seems like some (not all) of these people are gaming the system?
I have flown Southwest a lot and I have seen people being brought onto the plane on a wheelchair and then a miracle happens and then they are able to run off the plane as soon as the door is open.
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Old 02-27-2018, 09:26 PM   #9
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I have flown Southwest a lot and I have seen people being brought onto the plane on a wheelchair and then a miracle happens and then they are able to run off the plane as soon as the door is open.
Yep.

Air travel really brings out the worst in people. Over the last 40 years or so I've been flying, it has really changed. The last 10 years have ruined my hope in mankind. OK, maybe that's an exaggeration. But, I worry about if we had a war or something and had to cooperate and get in line for limited resources. I think it would be very ugly, judging by all the shenanigans you see in plane boarding.
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Old 02-27-2018, 09:41 PM   #10
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I have flown Southwest a lot and I have seen people being brought onto the plane on a wheelchair and then a miracle happens and then they are able to run off the plane as soon as the door is open.
I've definitely seen this and most frequently when flying overseas. When I casually commented around the office, several people who had family outside the country confirmed that they have booked their parents as "needing assistance" when flying to/from the US and their home country, particularly when there is a connecting flight.

Reason being is that at the connecting airport, they are shuttled between flights and don't have to know the language, carry their carry on's, re-check their bags, or wait in long security lines. They have their hands held the whole time.

The first time I noticed this, it was an international flight connecting through Heathrow. There were 15 wheelchairs lined up, each with a older person, all of the same nationality. I've even witnessed husband and wife paired up in his and her wheelchairs.

Totally taking advantage of the system. No cost to them!
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Old 02-27-2018, 10:14 PM   #11
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Totally taking advantage of the system. No cost to them!
I'm sure the airlines have factored all of this special assistance in the price of the tickets.
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Old 02-27-2018, 10:33 PM   #12
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The last 10 years have ruined my hope in mankind. . . I think it would be very ugly, judging by all the shenanigans you see in plane boarding.
I've thought the same thing, but was heartened by the way people acted on USAir 1549 when they ditched in the Hudson. There was no misbehaving, they got out quickly, and if you look at pictures of them crowded on the wings waiting to get picked up, you don't see carry on luggage, laptop computers, etc. They did what they were supposed to do and helped each other (including one person in a wheelchair). So, there's hope . .
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Old 02-28-2018, 12:37 AM   #13
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Another advantage to the wheelchair is that a sky cap wheels you through security in a line that is much shorter, or just doesn't exist. I've helped my father, 85 years old, board a flight to visit my brother/his son. The sky cap insisted he wheel Dad to the gate and I was issued a non-boarding pass to accompany him to the gate. We were ushered past a line that was at least 45 minutes long.

Personally, I see no reason wheel chair people be boarded first. In fact, boarding last makes more sense if they are to be seated in isle seats. I understand it's to facilitate (speed up) boarding, but I find that hard to believe; placing mobility impaired throughout the cabin for everyone to negotiate around speeds up boarding? Who thought that up?
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Old 02-28-2018, 12:51 AM   #14
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If a senior (or anyone) requests any kind of assistance at all - it’s the immediate wheelchair for them, all the way to the gate.

It’s pretty much an all or nothing option.
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Old 02-28-2018, 05:25 AM   #15
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You are going to climb over people in an emergency? Hope I'm not sitting between you and the emergency exit if an emergency occurs...
Trample the weak, hurdle the dead. I am getting out that exit.

More seriously: someone else’s advice to hunt for seats nearer the wing exits seems sound.
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Old 02-28-2018, 05:46 AM   #16
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I m going to h*ll, but I always have the frailest person with the heaviest carry on that can't get it out of the overhead, and shuffles off the plane when I have a tight connection.
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Old 02-28-2018, 05:52 AM   #17
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I've thought the same thing, but was heartened by the way people acted on USAir 1549 when they ditched in the Hudson. There was no misbehaving, they got out quickly, and if you look at pictures of them crowded on the wings waiting to get picked up, you don't see carry on luggage, laptop computers, etc. They did what they were supposed to do and helped each other (including one person in a wheelchair). So, there's hope . .
Good point! Let's hope that pervails.

Counterpoint: time has passed since then, and society seems to have decayed a bit. (Yeah, sounding old.)

Now let me get back to my emotional support cobra.
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Old 02-28-2018, 06:31 AM   #18
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DW and I recently flew home from FLL on first class tickets we purchased. The priority boarding for first class was nonexistent. By the time all the special categories were boarded the plane was nearly half full. All the first class overheads were full of oversized sideways bags and the passengers looked like refugees.
I guess I still must have PTSD from the thousands of business flights. The flying experience continues to degrade to the point that we may reconsider our travel plans for the future.
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Old 02-28-2018, 07:09 AM   #19
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Have we just had a string of flights with an unusual number of motility-challenged
Apparently you have.
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Old 02-28-2018, 08:13 AM   #20
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I have flown Southwest a lot and I have seen people being brought onto the plane on a wheelchair and then a miracle happens and then they are able to run off the plane as soon as the door is open.


That wasn’t the case here. These people were old and fat and not mobile.

From a safety standpoint, it would be better if they were just gaming the system and would be able to self rescue in an emergency. Seeing a dozen infirm passengers on our flight last week got me thinking about the extra responsibility thrust upon the flight attendants. How could three or four flight attendants get them off the plane? Don’t attendants have specific duties for the benefit of the masses during an evacuation?
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