I’m flying to Hawaii with a friend who uses a power wheelchair. We have traveled on airplanes before, but in San Francisco we only have a 30 minute layover. Is this enough time to make the connecting flight? Do you have any suggestions or tips for me?
Well first off, I’m very concerned about the 30 minute connecting time, because if your plane is even a little late there is a good chance you may not make your Hawaii flight. And Murphy’s law usually prevails in situations like these – when you have all the time in the world, your connecting gate is right next to your arrival gate; but when you are tight on time it’s 30 gates away.
You also have to remember that you will not be deplaned until all of the other passengers get off the plane, which cuts even more into your 30 minute window.
First off I’d call the airline to see if you can get on an earlier flight to San Francisco – one that will give you more time to get to your other flight. Then plead your case and ask them if you can change without incurring any extra fees. Explain that although 30 minutes may be enough connecting time for an able-bodied passenger, it isn’t realistic for someone in a wheelchair.
If they still say no, ask to speak to the Complaints Resolution Official (CRO). The CRO is trained at resolving disability complaints, and the airlines are required to have one available by phone during operating hours. If the reservation agent doesn’t know what a CRO is, ask to speak to a supervisor, as supervisors all know about CROs. Chances are you will fare much better with the CRO, but if they still won’t budge on the change fees, you’re going to have to decide if the extra peace of mind is worth the money.
If you end up on your original flight, remember to remind the flight attendant that your friend will need wheelchair assistance when you land, and that you have a very tight connection. Watch the clock and if your incoming flight is running late, then ask the flight attendant if they could request that the other passengers stay seated so you can get off the airplane first to make your connection. The down side, is if you have a whole plane full of people who also need to make tight connections, there isn’t going to be much cooperation on that one. But you can always try.
Good luck. And have fun in Hawaii.