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The Invisible Buggy Drivers.

Updated: Feb 21

Earlier this year John and I went on holiday to Newport in America. I used to go here on a lot of family holidays when I was younger.

We flew from Heathrow to Boston and booked assistance at the airport. We had organised a wheelchair from check-in to the gate, we had lounge access so once through security we went to wait there. Heathrow security were very nice, let me stay in the chair, and simply used the hand scanner. They manually checked the walker as it would never have fit through on the conveyor belt. After security, we went to the lounge and were told somebody would be back with another wheelchair at boarding time. When it got to the right time no one appeared, eventually one of the lounge staff came over and said no wheelchairs were available. We decided to walk, and happened to see a buggy outside the lounge which was missing a driver!

Fortunately, I can walk short distances and it was about a 10-minute walk to the gate. The gate staff were incredibly apologetic (turns out I wasn't the only one abandoned) and helped us down to the plane. The stewardesses were very kind and let John store the walker in a locker in the cabin. When we landed in Boston, the assistance was perfect.

The return journey from Boston was probably more frustrating. We checked in and sat with another couple who were also waiting for assistance. After a while a lady arrived with two wheelchairs, didn't know if anyone was coming to push the other chair so said John could.

American security were more thorough. They put my nordic pole through the conveyor belt and held my hand so I could walk through the X-ray machine. They were very efficient when it came to checking the walker. We made it to the gate and once again were allowed to store the walker in a locker in the cabin.

Upon arrival at Heathrow there was no wheelchair at the gate we were told there was a buggy at the top of the air bridge. Once again there was no driver, maybe they should employ Inspector Poirot? Luckily we found an abandoned wheelchair in the corner, so again John got lumbered pushing it!

Some tips for the airport:

Book assistance through your airline. Ask your airline about using your mobility equipment and leaving it at the gate, believe me, this lessens the chance of you being left stranded.

Allow plenty of time, assistance takes a while to arrive and there are always long delays at security.

If you hire a car, plan how to pick it up. You can either wait outside arrivals or go with your fellow travellers to the car hire area. I chose the latter, it did involve a lot of walking but was easier than John trying to navigate the way back to the terminal.

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