As I was boarding my flight to Chicago yesterday, I was reminded of the advantages of preboarding. I noticed a lady in the departure lounge who walked very slowly and used a quad cane, yet when the preboarding announcement came for our flight she remained seated. I was puzzled, but then again some people just don’t want to preboard because they don’t think they are “that disabled.” I’ve heard that quote a time or two from readers.
In any case she boarded with the rest of her group when the general boarding announcement was made. The issue wasn’t really with how fast she could walk, as to be honest the line moved very slowly because it was an overbooked flight. I assume she was comfortable with the pace.
The problem actually came when she reached her seat. She was unable to scooch in over the fixed armrest, so she told the flight attendant that she was suppose to have a seat with a movable armrest. Apparently she had requested one, but alas, a last minute equipment change threw a real wrench into the works.
So the general boarding line just stopped dead while the flight attendant went off to try and find out which seats have flip up armrests. She asked the lead flight attendant, but she didn’t known either, and curtly replied that they are flagged in the computer and the reservation department and the gate agents usually take care of that. And we all continued to wait.
Finally the flight attendant just start checking some of the seats in hopes she would find one with a flip up armrest. Alas this worked, but there was a passenger already seated in the magic seat. So she explained the situation to the gentleman and asked if he would switch. No problem. He gathered his belongings and they began to trade.
Let’s just say that it wasn’t a quick process and at this point all eyes were on the lady with the cane. The other passengers weren’t being rude, it’s just that when you are standing in line looking forward, well, there is just no way to avert your gaze. And I expect she felt uncomfortable because she started to apologize, laugh nervously and shake a bit; while her husband and the flight attendant tried to reassure her. It was a very unfortunate situation.
I guess the moral of the story is to always take advantage of that preboarding option. There will always be equipment changes, so it’s no telling when you will walk or roll up to your seat to find a fixed armrest. It’s not intentional, but it does happen. This problem is a lot easier to fix when there are only a handful of people of the plane.
Preboarding exists so you can take a little extra time to get settled in, and so problems like these can be settled in private. So, remember — when in doubt, always preboard.