Flying with Crutches – Part 2 (How it Actually Went)

Flying with crutches turned out to be no trouble at all! Aside from making it impossible to explore the various airports and really enjoy the experience of flying/traveling, the actual process was smooth and easy.

At this point in my healing, I just got my boot on Wednesday and my flight was Saturday at 7am. I was able to walk a bit on just the boot, but had mainly been putting most of my weight on both crutches or just one.

When I first got to the airport in D.C. around 4:45am, there was a line at the Frontier counter with a sign at the front saying they would open at 5am. I got in line with my bag and my crutches. I had already called ahead (2 separate times actually) to tell them I would be on crutches and to ask if they did anything in particular for that. I also went on the website and clicked that I needed additional support. When I did call, the woman confirmed that I had added the extra assistance notification, and she said that someone would meet me at the ticket counter with a wheelchair. I also checked out how bringing some extra medical supplies would work since I saw that that was allowed on their website. I needed to bring a night splint, and bringing it made my bag bigger than what was allowed. The woman on the phone said that I could pack it in a separate bag and they would put it above with the carry on bags, and that this would be done free of charge. I followed these instructions and packed the splint in a separate bag, but actually ended up putting that bag inside my other bag (which fit “personal item” requirements when folded down, but that had extra room inside).
Back to waiting in line at the airport – I assumed that I’d go through the line and when they brought up my reservation they’d see that I needed a wheelchair and whatever other things they do for my situation. Instead, an airport employee pushing an empty wheelchair came by just minutes after I got in line and asked if I needed it. I was on my crutches at the time and only hesitated a moment before saying yes. He helped me into the chair and promptly pushed me to the front of the line. As soon as the employees came out at 5, the airport employee with me handed my passport to the Frontier associate and she printed my boarding pass and sent me on my way. She did confirm that I didn’t want to add my bag as a carry on,  and I told her I had my medical supplies inside in a separate bag and that when I took them out my bag then fit personal item requirements.

The airport employee who was pushing me zig zagged in and out of lines, maneuvering me around different obstacles until we skipped the entire security line and I was right up front. The employee put my bags through the conveyor belt and they asked if I was stable enough to stand in the body scanner. I said I could at least try, and it worked out fine. My whole boot showed up as yellow…and so did another spot on my body. The TSA agent did a pat down of my whole body and then some separate wanding and testing of my boot. She wasn’t the kindest lady, but all the other workers there were great. Still not sure what caused the yellow spot on me, but I always appreciate security being thorough. The airport employee was standing at the other side of security with all my belongings, waiting for me to pass through. He helped me sit down, handed me my things, and pushed me to my gate. It was a long way so I was really grateful for how everything was working out. Once he got me to my gate, he helped me to a chair and left with the wheelchair.

I waited there until a Frontier employee showed up close to boarding time. I crutched over to his desk to ask how exactly everything would work. He told me I’d board early and he’d help me with everything. A few minutes later, he gestured me over and was so kind and helpful. He carried my whole bag to the plane and went ahead and put it in the overhead compartment above my seat all while I had only made it a few steps down the ramp to the plane. I tried to tell him about how I had separate bags since I didn’t pay to put that whole bag as a carry on, but he said it was fine to just put the whole thing above. The first flight attendant I saw asked me if I wanted her to order a wheelchair for me for when we landed, and I said that would be great. It took me a while to get to my seat, but I was excited to see that I had a window seat. The flight attendants took my crutches and stored them overhead, and asked if I was comfortable in my seat, mentioning that they could switch me to an aisle seat. I said that it was good where I was because I could stay out of the way and not have to move. I slept on and off and had a pretty uneventful (yet beautiful!) flight.

Upon landing, I waited until everyone was off the plane. Multiple kind passengers stopped on their way out and asked if I needed them to hand me my crutches, but I waved them on and said that I didn’t want to hold anyone up. As I stepped off the plane, a Denver airport employee was there with a wheelchair to take me to my next gate. While on the way there, she asked if I wanted to stop at the bathroom or to get food or drink, but I didn’t want to be a hassle so I said no. I had a full 5 hours until my next flight, so I figured I could hobble to the bathroom and food counter myself sometime in the next little while. Oh and one small thing, each airline employee pushing me needed to see my boarding pass to scan it. That must be to track how many people use this service or to see what the employees are doing or something.

When it got close to time to board my next flight, I stood up and asked the next Frontier employee if I could board first and was kind of just trying to see how it would all work again. This woman was NOT as kind as the first man I’d interacted with earlier in the day, and she dismissed me quickly after saying that I should come up when she called for preboarding. When she did call for preboarding, a HUGE line formed with older people and small children. Believe me, this time I got no special treatment for being on crutches. I did end up joining the line from the side and cutting a whole bunch of people because there was no way I could wait at the end of this huge line. No one seemed to mind, but this time as I crutched my way down the ramp there were people passing me and I felt flustered and my bag was swinging around and it was just not great. There was no flight attendant at the front to ask if I wanted to order a wheelchair, so I just continued on my way to my seat. As I struggled to balance my bag and keep myself upright, a flight attendant did come from the back of the plane and ask if it would help at all if she carried my bag for me. I told her that would actually help a lot and I thanked her, and she said that she would want someone to help her daughter if she was on crutches. I had a middle seat this time, and luckily I sat between two guys my age who were nice and easygoing. The one who sat down first was super friendly and we ended up talking for the full hour that we sat on the runway as we waited for some luggage. His name was AJ, and I always love meeting new people while traveling.

Another side note, my doctor told me to wear compression socks while flying (and actually I have to wear them constantly over the next 3 weeks as I wear the boot) and to take the boot off and move my foot around 4-5 times during each flight. This was all to prevent blood clots, and it worked out fine for me to take the boot off and put it under the chair in front of me during each flight.

When this plane landed, I again waited to deboard until everyone else was gone. It was kind of nice to not be in the rush to get off. As I stepped off the plane, an airline employee with a wheelchair was waiting for me! I’m still not sure if this was just a weird coincidence or if it was because I had made the note on my online booking abut needing assistance, but it worked out perfectly. This last employee took me the whole way to where Jessi was waiting for me, and it was all around an easy experience!

I normally love the whole aspect of exploring airports and just expierencing all the little things that have to do with travel, and I definitely didn’t get that this time. But the airports and airlines certainly work together well to make flying accessible for someone who can’t get around easily on their own. I did notice that the amount of help/comfort/peace of mind provided did differ depending on who was assisting you, but that’s the case with pretty much everything where you’re interacting with a human – it all depends on their individual personality.

All in all, it was quite easy and nothing to be worried about! I’d recommend making the notation online with your last name and booking number, and calling ahead if you need to bring extra supplies. Everyone was very helpful and I’m hoping the flight back goes just as smoothly!


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