Monday, June 4, 2012

Preparing to fly with an atypical body

Picture of clouds taken from an airplane, image from Wikipedia Commons
Picture of clouds from an airplane, from Wikipedia Commons
I have two trips coming up this summer, one being my annual trip to visit my family and friends in Minnesota in July and the other to go to a major gaming convention in August.  I've been flying several times a year since I fractured my vertebra and have been using either a cane or forearm crutches in that time, but this will be the first time that I'm flying with wheels.  I have to admit that I'm a little nervous, particularly with the uproar about whether or not fat people flying should pay for more than one seat, and in what circumstances, and how one ticket for one person is a human rights issue.

This will be one of those times where I will get to see the interactions between ableism and fatphobia mingle.  Which will matter more to the airline employee, my size, my use of adaptive aids, or will it be one big mess of both?  Will I be seen as being disabled because I'm fat, or fat because I'm disabled, or will that even matter?  Would I be treated differently if I wasn't a young-appearing white cis-appearing woman?  Should I dress up for my flight to appear more upper class in hopes of better treatment?  Which part of my identities will be validated or invalidated as a part of my desire to travel across the country?  Will I have to milk the privileges I have in order to be treated with dignity and respect....and how crappy will that make me feel?

I have a month before my first flight to wonder about this.  My Expedia itineraries have the designation "special assistance, wheelchair needed (can climb/descend stairs)," so hopefully I won't have too much trouble.  I'm also gathering information from season wheelchair users to see what I can do to make my trips less of a headache.  Thankfully it seems like the airlines are starting to understand the various needs of their disabled passengers, so hopefully I'll be able to fly with my rigid chair without too much hassle (hopefully!).

1 comment:

  1. Well I know it makes a big difference whether you're flying alone or with companions. My sister was all but wheelchair bound when my family went to Disney World in 2010. It went pretty smoothly, but I think part of that might have been because we had a number of able and partially able (me) people along as well. My dad was determined to make her experience as good as possible, and if anyone had given us trouble I think he would have ripped them a new one--and he's an expert at that. I'm not sure what it would be like doing it alone. I do suggest dressing up, as from extensive flight experience I've noticed that there is a real money bias to the airlines, and they will treat you much better if they're afraid you might sue them for treating you like chattel (as is standard). Also, having extremely long hair will make you the "random" search subject 9 times out of 10. But you probably won't have to deal with that.