I recently read a letter of complaint about a non-us airline refusing to board a couple of wheelchair-users traveling together. They made all the proper arrangements and even informed the ticket agent that they would need assistance boarding, however the lead flight attendant refused to board them because “they would not be able to use the toilet unassisted.”
When the gate agent relayed this information to the passengers, they assured him they would not need to use the toilet for the entire Transatlantic flight. Now mind you, they did not tell the gate agent why they would not need to use the toilet (catheters), so the discussion went on and on, and the flight attendant stood his ground. As general boarding commenced the problem was still not resolved. The passengers were very upset and one was near tears.
Then, (after about 25 minutes of arguing) the passengers mentioned that they both have catheters. The gate agent grabbed his handbook and noted that there was an exception for catheters and quickly informed the flight attendant of this new development. The flight attendant backed down and the passengers were allowed to board, but they were somewhat of a spectacle as they missed their pre-boarding opportunity. And of course they were even more upset.
OK, I’m sure you know where I’m going with this.
Granted, you just don’t walk up to a gate agent and say “Hi, I’m John and I wear a catheter,” but it just seems prudent to share this pertinent information with airline personnel in some cases, especially when the airline is denying you boarding because of toileting issues. If this was mentioned in the beginning it would not have been an issue and the passengers would have been allowed to pre-board. And it would have saved everyone a whole lot of frustration.
Telling somebody you will not use the toilet is not the same as explaining why. OK, I know it’s private stuff, but I have to say that it’s easy to promise you won’t use the toilet while you are safely on the ground, but (if you don’t use a cath) after a six-hour flight, that promise pretty much goes out the window (or down the drain, depending on how you look at it). And I’m sure flight attendants have seem that happen — hey those folks have seen everything happen!
I’m not unsympathetic to the travelers, but it just seems that at times it pays to share a little personal information. Especially when it gets you on an airplane!