It all made such a difference to our journey that we wondered if we might manage to visit our daughter who lives in Portugal. A telephone call was made to Air Portugal to enquire about help. No problem, they said, when you book your ticket just say you require help at the airport both going to Lisbon and on arrival at Lisbon and the same on the return journey. With this information we booked to tickets to Lisbon.
Six weeks later found us at Heathrow Airport. On arrival we went to the information desk where there were wheelchairs and a pleasant fellow in charge. He took us to the check-in desk for Air Portugal, we checked in and he and another fellow pushed us to a waiting area. We were there for about half an hour and then they collected us and off we went through the security area. No queue, just straight through with a stop for the usual security checks. When we were asked to take our shoes off I explained that it was very difficult for me to bend down and no problem – they just ran a small machine around my shoes and that was fine. Off we went to passport control – no problem there and no waiting. After we had done all that we were taken to a large waiting area room. There was a man at a desk on a computer checking people as they came in as to where they were flying to and the time of the flight. He said we would be called for in plenty of time to board. There were about thirty people in the area, some in wheelchairs, some sitting in chairs. They were people of all ages, old and young. The young seemed to have legs in plaster or an arm in a sling. Every now and then someone would call to take someone off for a flight to Madrid or Berlin. Then our turn came and ourselves and another couple were put on a buggy and taken off to the gate to board the plane. Did we need help to get on the plane or could we walk on? We could all walk on but were grateful for the help this far.
After a good flight we arrived in Lisbon. The flight attendant announced that all special needs passengers should remain in their seats. Everyone else left the plane and then we were escorted out to a small mini bus with a ramp for anyone in a wheelchair. The driver checked we were all comfortable and off we went to the airport entrance. We were met on arrival by four young men complete with wheelchairs and off we went at great speed. The young men were students doing a holiday job and keen to improve their English. This we enjoyed on the long, long ride to passport control etc. All this went well and we arrived at the baggage hall where the fellows collected our suitcases and took us out to where our daughter was meeting us.
The help was just as good on the way back.
This year our arthritis and back were not so good and a journey to Bournemouth was arranged. Once again on arrival at Oxford station we were met by a very friendly girl who escorted us onto the platform. She told me that she didn’t think I would be able to get onto the train as on Great Western trains the step is high up. I said I was sure I would manage but she was right, it was too high. No problem, in two minutes a ramp was fixed on and I got onto the train. It was a good journey with good help at Bournemouth there and back.
A short while ago a friend of ours at 80 plus wanted to go to Hong Kong as her family were now living there but was apprehensive about doing the journey on her own. Finally she decided to go in a taxi from Oxford to Heathrow where she was met and followed the same procedure as we did, there and back. She had a fantastic time and was grateful for all the help.
I do hope this has been a help to anyone with mobility problems who is thinking of a journey by train or the number of the Great Western railway assisted travel helpline. It is: 0800 19711329.
Any other helpful tips to pass on gratefully received.