Sometimes, it’s great to go on a nice vacation, but it can be scary, especially if you have not flown before. To top it off, many people get scared because of the “You’re gonna die!” stories that many people tell to try and scare others, to discourage them from taking an adventure. We’ll have you know, at Screenless Allies, we have flown many times and it can be quite fun! It is just a matter of being prepared, and on this article, we will show you how to do it when you are blind!
Choosing The Right Airline
The advantage to flying is you can have different experiences. This is why there are many airlines to choose from. When looking for an airline to travel with, here are some things you should ask yourself.
- How accessible is it to book a flight?
- Have others flown this airline before?
- Do they have good reviews?
We will go over these now in a bit more detail.
One big thing to consider is if the airline in question has a website. Let’s be honest. Nobody wants to wait on the phone for three hours just to book a flight. Now a days, many airlines have a site that can be used to search for, and get a flight booked. Most airlines follow common practices to make these sites useable with a screen reader or magnifier. However, in the rare instance where that is not even there, you can always go the phone route. Also, consider the fact if you do not have someone traveling, how would you navigate. You typically can specify to the airline that you have a disability, and someone can escort you around the airport to your flights and baggage claim. If you are nice enough to them, they may be able to get you to restaurants, assuming your flight schedule permits it. You can also use smartphone apps to navigate. This is a bit more risky, due to the fact that you’d need to pay extra attention to traffic around the airport, while wearing headphones to respect privacy. The most important thing in these two situations is, USE GOOD JUDGEMENT!
Experiences and Reviews
It always helps if others have used the airline before. It will help when conducting research and can hear from someone who has flown, in order to hear an honest opinion. Reviews are also a great way to form a decision. There are some airlines, who sadly also make it onto the news, due to some sort of discrimination. This is even more common with the blind and their guide dogs. So if you are a guide dog user, it is recommended to pay attention to those articles as well, unless you want to have a delay, or be brought off of a plane.
Assuming you have booked the flights, it is time to prepare! The best way to do this is to determine how long your adventure will be. If it is more than a week, you may want to check bags into the flight. That is, rather than carrying your luggage with you on the plane, you can give it to the ticket counter, and your bags will be put under the airplane. No worries, you will get them back. Also, we all love technology! However, we do not want to overdo the amount we wish to take. Pick out all the gadgets you know you are going to need. It is heavily recommended to take any technology on board with you, in order to not risk any damage to it. There is no compassion to luggage at all, unless specified by the customer.
Minimum On-Person Inventory
You may want to carry very minimally at the airport, due to security checkpoints. You will need to empty out EVERYTHING you have. If it is a laptop computer, the lid must be open and in a separate basket. You will be given a basket to put the rest of your items into for checking. Also, your shoes must be removed when this happens. Try wearing something that you can easily remove. Yes, this is quite embarrassing to many people, but you would be surprised at where people can keep dangerous items. Have your identification card (ID) or passport, depending on the destination, in a reachable place as well, since you will need them to get a boarding pass, and you will also need one of these at the security checkpoint.
There are a few different ways to obtain your flight boarding passes. You can either grab them when checking into your flight at the airport, or you can usually print them out at your home about twenty-four hours prior to the flight in question. If taking the twenty-four hour option, it saves time at the airport which can be used to go do other things, like security, which we will discuss further down in more detail. Some airlines will let you have an electronic copy of the boarding pass on your phone. this can be accessed by the Wallet app on iOS, or through an email on Android devices.
One important thing is to have a transportation plan before or after flights. You don’t want to stay in an airport, right? Obtaining transportation now a days is much easier. If a friend/family member cannot assist, you can use a taxi cab, Uber or Lyft. Keep in mind, though, that taxis are a bit more expensive than the Uber and Lyft apps. You’re still riding with strangers, though. Coordinate everything on times you would need transportation. When catching flights, it is recommended to be at the airport about one to two hours early. Some flights can arrive earlier than expected, and they can take off without you, if you fail to arrive in a timely manner. If you have a family member or friend waiting for you, have them meet you at a certain point. For instance, yall can either meet at baggage claim, or outside in front of the airport somewhere. Be sure to communicate where you are at all times, if this is the case.
At the Airport
Once at the airport, it is almost time to start your journey to a destination via a flight! Now, we shall look into the sequence of events that will take you right on board!
This is the first department you will head to at the airport. Here, you will have the opportunity to check in any heavy baggs. In that situation, the worker at the counter will instruct you to put the luggage on a specific place on their counter. They can also help fill out luggage tags with your contact information. If your luggage is lost, people can use these ttags to let you know it was found. they will also print out any boarding passes needed to show the gate agent to board the flight. If you have a disability, some airlines have the option of what is known as “Pre-boarding.” This means you get to board the flight before anyone else! It is a good idea to remind the agent you will need assistance through the rest of this process. Family members cannot go past here unless arranged prior to a flight, so it is a good idea to say “goodbye” to them here. The agent will have you sit and wait for a worker to assist you. As a fair warning, many workers will ask if you need a wheelchair. Unless you really need one, make sure they know you are able to walk. Laziness should NOT, be an excuse.
It is that time! Time to show people all that athlete’s foot you got, I mean, remove your shoes and any belongings you have on your person! You’ll put your shoes in one basket, any laptop will go on a separate basket as well. Then you will have another basket with your items. At this point, the security agent will do one of two things, which we will outline below. One thing to note, if you hear a beep coming from close by, one of two things happened.
- You forgot to remove an item from your inventory. This can be fixed by just giving said items to the agent and you can still go through.
- Hopefully not, but something dangerous was detected. At that point, you better say goodbye to that flight, and may have a vacation somewhere else. They offer free amenities, and there are also people there! The only downside to this is, you can’t pick your room. In fact, the room is made of bars. It’s actually called “Jail.”
If you have anything in your body such as braces, metal screws, or anything else, it is a good idea to inform the security prior to going through the scanners. Remember. The beeping can happen during either of the next two methods.
The Quick Method
This method basically consists of the agent holding your hand, and both of you will pass through a narrow camera field. No worries, they use gloves. Don’t correct them on the proper way of guiding, because this is a very quick 3 second or so method. Once you pass through, all items will travel on a conveyor belt, which you may hear beside you. Assuming everything goes well, you will then be given to your temporary assistant, and they will help you get organized.
The Awkward Method
This method consists of the agent guiding you to a small room. You will be instructed to put your hands above your head, while a camera scans you. The awkward part of this method is that agents have the ability to perform a patdown, if needed. These can be extremely uncomfortable to some people. Essentially, the agent will begin going around your body with one hand, from head to toe. They may also pull out a small handheld camera and scan your head with it. Do not panic. It does not take long. On average, it should take about two minutes total. Once finished, and all goes well, you will be taken to your assistant afterwords. You have successfully made it through the hardest part! It’s now time to wait for the flight!
Now that security is done, it is time to go to the flight’s gate! No, it is not a gate like you would find on a fence. Think of it as an open area with a door which leads to a runway. You will be taken to a chair, to wait for the flight! This is where the assistant and you go different ways. You will start your journey, and the assistant will report back to her boss and await another person needing help. From here, just listen to music, socialize, or take a nap until the flight arrives. When it does, you will hear an announcement over the gate’s intercom. Pay attention to the cities the airplane will land in, to make sure the destinations match your flight. When the flight is ready, an agent from the gate or a flight attendant will assist you to board the plane. Have your boarding pass ready to show. It’s now time to fly!
On The Flight
At this point, you are helped by flight attendants for the rest of your flight. This part is simple. You just sit and enjoy the feeling of flying! You will first hear instructions on how to wear the seatbelts of the plane. In many planes, the seatbelt buckle slides into the locking device. To remove the seatbelt, lift the plastic flap on the locking device, and the buckle will release. You will also get evacuation instructions, which is important to listen to if it is your first time. In some cases, you can request a braille version of a safety card with more information on these instructions. Once all the formalities are done, you will be in the air, heading to your destination! The flight attendant will go around asking if you want a snack or drink after a while. When the flight is almost finished, they will collect any trash you may have.
The Call Button
If for some reason something goes wrong, and you need a flight attendant, you can find a button on the plane’s roof above your head. It is recommended you have someone assist with this, because the button for the lights and the “Call” button may look very similar. Or, if you are at the front, memorize the attendant’s name, and simply say it to get their attention.
Once you get off the plain, an attendant will help you out of the runway and into the destination airport. If you have a connecting flight, the assistant will assist you there. Otherwise, it is time for baggage claim, if you have checked bags in. If not, it’s time to start exploring!
Ready To Go
Remember the transportation plan? It’s time to get out of that airport. At the airport, there are taxi’s lined up outside that you can use. Just have the assistant take you to one. If you are calling an Uber or Lyft, have the attendant take you to the pickup location for these services. All airports have a specific place for these services to park and pick up passengers.
If you have bags that have been checked in at the counter, it’s time to go get them! Baggage claim consists of a large conveyor belt which will carry the bags in a circle around a certain area. It is VERY important to remember either the color of the bags, or anything that may stand out. You can also use a bluetooth luggage tracker such as an AirTag to play a sound to locate it using your phone. Regardless, once you find your luggage, you are good to go! Remember, your assistant will be with you until you locate the luggage.
Wow! So much information, right? It can be overwhelming, but we promise, it will all be worth it once you have flown a few times. Have any ideas or suggestions we missed? Let us know, so we can include them here! Of course, questions are also welcome! Happy travels!