Pondering Taking Flight with Peg…

The vouchers made him do it and off he went to the sunshine state for maiden voyage with Peg. Read on! – the editor

Vouchers! Some think of them as the bain of air travel with “bain” meaning a source of frustration. Okay not THAT particular bain, but maybe a “bain in the ass” in that they get you to do what you maybe shouldn’t…

The model is simple: Airlines issue travel vouchers and hope that they never get used (probably illegal but I digress). It is not like getting your money back, but it is close. Before the recent passenger rights bills and rules passed by the Department of Transportation from the year of 2022 Travel meltdowns, yet after COVID, we had easy (fairly “loose”) cancellation policies with travel vouchers issued that were good for a period of time, due to the travel uncertainty of the Pandemic era.

Stay with me…

Okay, so I happened to still be holding two vouchers on two different airlines (Delta and Southwest) from 2022.

Enter the loss of Agnes and the arrival of Peggy (AKA Peg).

Peggy has come a long way since her homecoming last October (https://jedemi.com/awsi-musings/home-stream-home-ponder/). My buddy and I refer to the little baby steps as ripping off the band-aid on different activities.

So this adventure was the big deal!

Working in the Las Vegas Airport for 12 years I have witnessed the action of the contractors doing the “wheelchair assist” during travel and work. Now was my turn for an up close and personal experience.

Circling back, initially I thought about traveling mere months after I got home from hospital. That was ambitious of me — and definitely not to be. I finally set a goal: May 3rd. My birthday.

May 3rd was also I announced to my friend circle that I was having an amputation of my left foot below the knee in June 2023. So this date was more than a coincidence. In lieu of my annual trip to visit my editor, which logistically was more difficult, I vowed to make Ft. Lauderdale my first trip, mostly to see my brother and best friend, to what was my annual January trip, in May.

To pull this off, it required a small village, and some guts and a bucket of patience. As my late mother always said, “Patience is a Virtue”. We needed buckets of this.

First Leg — Delta to the ATL (Atlanta):

My local buddy Jey assisted (as we have an ongoing routine for doctor visits), so this part of the adventure was very choreographed. At the airport, the hand-off was smooth. The agent from Prospect Services got me though security without waiting in the TSA screening line. This was my first pat-down, and my orthopedic shoes set off a chemical alarm, albeit a false one.

I boarded first and was able to walk to my seat without assistance (Go.Peg. Go!). Well, I was off by one row, but the very kind gentleman who’s seat I snagged, agreed to a swap. Very nice of him especially since I was in a tight squeeze on a full flight.

The Connection Challenge(s)…

What I didn’t anticipate was that after 4+ hours in that fine seat, I’d be struggling to get up and out of the plane. Whoops! Fortunately, the ground crew that was servicing the plane, saw that I was challenged, and assisted me. With their help, I made it to my connection.

The operative phrase here: “to my connection…”

In the ATL, by the time the contracted staff wheeled me to the plane, First Class and Comfort plus had already boarded. No worries, I thought since this was a Boeing 757, with the second door open for boarding. However, without grips to hold on to get to seat, I was… in a bad spot. The flight attendant directed me to a closer seat on the aisle by the door to in an attempt to make it easier.

It was the right idea until… I needed to stand up four times to let others get into my row.

“Seriously, Dude?” said Peg.

I’ll admit my leg had a point.

Another eye-opener for us both: It was difficult to stand up from the left side of the plane (FYI – That’s Peg’s side).

Somehow, we both finally settled in and were on the way to Ft Lauderdale (FLL) — a two hour flight.

Welcome to Florida!

Happy to finally make it to Florida, there were some great things and… let’s just say, another unanticipated one.

Upon arrival, we were surprised to see that ground crew actually brought my walker to the gate (even though I checked it to baggage claim and not gate side).

But I didn’t need walker at that point, it was the wheelchair team to get me to my brother Paul. That’s when I found out the parking garage was off limits due to regulations. Needless to say, he had to be creative, and also had to pack a bucket of patience (Thanks, Paul!!).

Maybe… well, most definitely, I was a little lax since I apparently worked in one of the best airports for folks who are “challenged.” After departing LAS, it kinda went downhill. But we managed. For sure, there were lots of key learnings during my outbound adventure.

Heading Home: SWA through DEN to LAS…

Leveraging my other voucher, I flew SWA (as in Southwest Airlines) to Denver with a connection to LAS (home!!). My bestie Billy was on transportation duty. Once we figured out the airport parking garage, we made it to check in. The excellent agent processed the medical equipment (now the walker and a transportation chair brother Paul found in a thrift store), and checked them to Las Vegas baggage claim.

TSA was a breeze and Southwest gate staff were excellent. I got the middle seat blocked by request due to my size, and I opted for seating on the right side of the plane (Key learning!!).

In Denver, the gate agent took the initiative and wheeled me to the gate herself, so I could make my connection. I opted for a bulkhead seat to have the extra legroom. Seemed like the right idea, but… there was even less to grab to get out of my seat upon arrival Vegas.
I had a great guy who got me to baggage claim and stayed with me until buddy Jey arrived, and my medical equipment.

Overall, SWA rocked! A special shout out is in order for some off-duty employees who assisted me on both flights.

They were the “heart” of the Southwest “Love”!

That’s a Wrap…

Clearly my days of hopping on a flight (leveraging deals and vouchers) are over. I had a life lesson (okay many MANY life lessons) from this experience.

Traveling by air with Peg is a LOT of work. As much as I love to travel and visit friends and family, I know that IF and WHEN the time comes to try again, I will make sure (damn sure!) to have a travel companion / partner at my side.

I will say, overall everyone I interacted with was super nice. I am grateful for the little village that got me to Ft. Lauderdale and back.

Next is Part 2: Hospitality of Friend and Family. Stay Tuned.

Thanks for reading and hanging out with me!–TC

Southwest Airlines – “Behind Every Seat is a Story”

SWA Acts of Kindness


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