Disabled And Inconvenienced

September 1, 2009

in Airport Stories

This story has less to do with an actual flight and more to do with the peculiar mayhem I had to endure during a stopover in Detroit.

I was flying from Hamburg, Germany to Halifax, Canada and had to change planes in Amsterdam and Detroit. I don’t fly very often, and this was only my second transatlantic flight (my first one was to Hamburg by the same route). What made this different, however, was that my right leg was in a cast due to an injury I’d sustained playing soccer a few days before.

I had to be wheeled around the airports by people employed for that purpose, which is actually nice in a lot of ways. They pick you up when you deplane, gather up your bags, take you through security (where you get priority service), and take you to the next gate, where you get to dodge the lines when you board. Overall, temporary disability isn’t so bad.

On the other legs of the trip, all had been fine. I’d been put on left-hand aisle seats so that I could stretch my injured leg into the footroom of the person sitting next to me, which is a rather inconsiderate accommodation for the airlines to make considering it forced me to cramp whoever got the window seat, but fortunately I was next to people who were both compassionate and small.

In Detroit, the attendants picked me up in a wheelchair and took me to international customs, where they promptly abandoned me. Worse, the airport’s entire computer system had failed. The customs people were pretending to do security checks and such, but it was clear to me that they were just miming, as they had no operational computers to work with.

I was stuck in what seemed to be designated as a handicapped line, with no attendants to be found. Most of the others who’d been left in this line seemed to be both mentally handicapped and non-English speakers, both factors which the (perhaps understandably) surly and agitated customs officer didn’t seem to take into account.

So when I finally got through that mess, I had to wait by the baggage carousel for about half an hour, watching my bags go round and round because I couldn’t get them and there was no one to help me. Keep in mind that I was playing soccer 3 days prior to this. I’m not accustomed to being helpless and I don’t take kindly to it.

Someone finally came and picked me up, and pushed me to where I needed to go. At security, they made me walk through the metal detectors without my crutches, which seemed rather a mean-spirited thing to do. But I finally got to my gate, and then the guy who pushed me expected a tip. I had nothing against him personally, of course… he seemed nice enough in that bored, distracted sort of way that’s characteristic of airline staff. But I certainly wasn’t going to tip him after I was abandoned in the hellish mess at customs.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous September 1, 2009 at 4:18 pm

OOOOOH Buddy, I can tell you right now why you were dumped off in customs by the attendant. I work in an international airport and I deal with travelers all the time and if I had one who was as condescending and arrogant as you I would have dumped your sorry ass in a far worse place than customs. Before you ever fly again you need to remember that people in the service industry can either help you or they can make your day a living Hell.

Your Call Jerk.


saw September 2, 2009 at 3:46 am

To Anon… I don't know if you're being sarcastic, or serious… It's hard to tell…

I don't think the writer here was rude – maybe he expected a bit too much from the mental midgets that tend to push wheelchairs at the airport, but hey…

As for not tipping though, try next time to remember – they're like servers at a restaurant… you can't blame the server if your food tastes bad… and likewise, on your second visit, you can't blame server B for the bad experience you had with server A…. You should have tipped.


Anonymous September 2, 2009 at 2:17 pm

I was very serious Saw. Mr temporary disability behaved as though his broken leg entitled him to preferential treatment, it doesn't. Airport sky caps are not mental midgets and they are not there to be looked down at by a jerk like Mr. temporary disability. Sky caps, like any other airport employee are there to do a job, they are not there to be abused by idiots who think less of them because they push a wheelchair for a living. If Mr temporary disability had treated me like he said he did I would have pushed him onto an elevator and walked away.


saw September 2, 2009 at 3:53 pm


I just read this again… the only mean thing he did was not tip, which I agree was not a good thing to do. Where do you see him bing mean to anyone? Are we reading two different stories?

Also – Skycaps do not push wheelchairs (at least, not at any of the airports I've been at). It's a different bunch and (gotta tellya) a dumber bunch. I can't count the number of times my flights were delayed going out because a gate agent called 20 times for a wheelchair pusher, only to finally get one that was jerking about not 20 feet from the gate.


madachode September 3, 2009 at 7:51 am

I got advice for you gimpy, don't go anywhere and esp use an airplane if you cannot get around on your own. It very selfish inconviencing other travelers because of your gimp ass and attitdue. kill yourself.


xxx March 14, 2013 at 9:59 pm

i hope you get paralyzed from the neck down so i can call you a gimp that shouldn't leave your house


xxx March 14, 2013 at 9:58 pm

asking a disabled person to tip someone from the airline helping him is DISCRIMINATION the poster cannot help his injury and airlines MUST make the experience accessible to ALL… anon you should not only be fired but put on a blacklist barring you from working with people with disabilities.


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