Living in Central Scotland means that I’m bang smack in the middle and conveniently placed to travel from two main Scottish airports; Edinburgh and Glasgow. Edinburgh airport is usually my first preference though and the airport I chose when travelling to Amsterdam recently. I know many disabled people may be interested to know what assistance is available when travelling to/from Edinburgh Airport. So I decided it would be good to review my experience of Edinburgh Airport Special Assistance when travelling with a disability for an outbound and inbound flight. I also have a video of the entire process from Ambulift, transfer into aisle chair and into my seat on the plane.
Edinburgh Airport Special Assistance Experience – Outbound Flight
Drop Off Area and Departures
Since we live not too far from the airport it made sense for my sister to drive and drop us off. This meant we didn’t have to pay for the airport parking for the days we were away. Although we didn’t need assistance at the drop-off area, there are help points which you can press to speak to someone and ask for assistance. A member of staff will then come to meet you, help carry luggage and guide you into the airport.
Special Assistance Check-In
We usually check-in first and then head to the Special Assistance office. This time we decided to go straight to Special Assistance as we were passing it on our way into departures.
This office/waiting area is for disabled passengers and passengers needing assistance at some point throughout their airport experience. The staff member behind the desk was really friendly and once I gave him my name, he called someone to let them know I had arrived. I explained that I didn’t need any assistance until boarding as we could make our own way to the departure gate. However, assistance can be given all the way through if required.
We then made our way to the special assistance easyJet check-in desk. This desk was the only one open so there were a few people in front of us, but we didn’t have to wait long. It took much longer for us to be checked-in because it was desk agents first time dealing with someone with a wheelchair. Sorry to the people behind us having to wait longer, but we all have to learn.
Being the first wheelchair user she had checked-in meant she wasn’t sure of the procedure. Despite asking her, she failed to complete and attach the form to my wheelchair detailing important information such as make/model, battery type etc. More on that later.
Security & Departures Lounge
Next up was security. We headed for the lift which took us to the next level. The fast track lane was empty so we were able to go through quickly and easily. We had put my wheelchair lateral side supports in Allan’s backpack so the bag got pulled through for a manual search. The side supports looked an odd shape on the screens but once they saw what they were they let us through.
The border control agent was lovely and understanding. She worked around my inability to lift my arms and legs during my body search. Again, if required you can request assistance through security if needed. We have had assistance through security at other airports in the past, but in Edinburgh, we have always managed.
As soon as we entered the departure lounge we checked for our flight on the screen. It was delayed 45 mins. Then another 30 mins and another 30 mins. Just our luck. Europe was experiencing crazy thunderstorms so it was causing chaos to flights. Luckily our flight wasn’t cancelled like a lot of other flights. We filled our loooong waiting time by eating, plane watching and going to the toilet (twice).
Edinburgh Airport Special Assistance with Omniserv
Finally, it was time to make our way to the departure gate (1H). Since I can’t use the toilet on the plane I made sure I went again just before boarding. We squeezed through everyone queuing up and I approached the gate agents. I made them aware I was there, double checked that special assistance were on their way and confirmed that I would be boarding first. I then asked the easyJet gate agent and the Menzies dispatcher for a form for my wheelchair as the check-in agent hadn’t done it. They both told me Omniserv (the company who supply special assistance) would do it. I didn’t think this was correct and it wasn’t
The special assistance agents met us and took us to the Ambulift. Again we had to squeeze through everyone queuing up, but the special assistance agents led the way and made sure people moved to let me through. We could tell straight away that they were both really nice guys. They chatted away to us and I felt completely comfortable with them.
Once inside the Ambulift, the driver drove us over to the plane and raised us up to the door of the plane. The special assistance agents began to fit the ProMove sling under me to prepare of the manual transfer.
The ProMove transfer sling is a great piece of kit that is much safer and comfortable than being manhandled. It was a bit of a struggle to get the sling fully under my bottom and legs. I think this is jointly due to the moulding of my wheelchair seat cushion but also the guys were slightly hesitant to tug and pull the sling under me due. With a little bit of reassurance from myself that I was happy for them to touch my legs and pull the sling under me properly, we were ready for the lift. With a quick efficient lift, I was transferred from my wheelchair into the aisle chair.
By this point, the impatient dispatcher had already started boarding the other passengers. So I was denied preboarding. This meant that the passengers were staring at me whilst strapped into the aisle chair and lifted into my seat. Boarding last as a wheelchair user and being stared at by ignorant passengers is not dignified in the slightest.
Despite being boarded last which was no fault of Omniserv special assistance, I felt like my experience went smoothly. They were amazingly helpful and friendly. They made sure I was comfortable at all times then once I was transferred into my seat on the plane, they asked how I wanted to be positioned and even placed my seatbelt on for me. I couldn’t fault their service.
You can watch my experience of Edinburgh Airport Special Assistance here:
Edinburgh Airport Special Assistance Experience – Inbound Flight
After three amazing days in Amsterdam, it was time to head home again. I plan on doing a review of my experience with Amsterdam Schiphol Airport Special Assistance soon so stayed tuned for that.
We landed in Edinburgh after a slight delay leaving Schiphol airport. Before the passengers began to disembark we noticed that the Ambulift was getting put in place at the plane door. We were a little confused by this and knew that there was no way my wheelchair was inside the Ambulift as we had literally just arrived. Passengers hadn’t even begun disembarking and luggage hadn’t been unloaded from the hold, let alone unload my wheelchair.
While waiting for the last few passengers to disembark we heard the cabin crew inform the ground crew that there was a wheelchair passenger onboard. As the last passenger left, the Ambulift driver and special assistance guys chapped the plane door to be let on. Immediately the Ambulift driver has a bad attitude towards the two female cabin crew who were trying to explain to him that I need my wheelchair brought up to the plane. He insisted that my wheelchair would be lifted up the stairs to which the cabin crew explained it was a power wheelchair and too heavy to be carried upstairs. It was as if he didn’t believe what they were telling him as he kept repeating “is it a manual or an electric wheelchair?”. He then peered over the partition in front of our seats and asked what type of wheelchair it was and when I told him it was a power wheelchair, he seemed annoyed, turned to his colleagues and said: “right we need to go back down to get the chair”.
It’s always important to explain how YOU need to be lifted and what is best for YOU. You need to feel safe and comfortable. So when they return I explain to them how I want to be lifted after he asks if I can move myself across the seats (which I can’t). I can sense he isn’t too happy about having to lift me. I need to stress that it was only the Ambulift driver that had a problem and a bad attitude as well as saying sexist comments to the female cabin crew. I’m still unsure why the Ambulift driver was assisting with my transfer though. The special assistance agents assisting, however, were lovely and very understanding especially when I explained my inability to keep my legs on the aisle chair without having a strap across them, my need for a headrest and general poor balance. The Ambulift driver, however, called me “demanding” for needing the support. He was rushing and seemed to want me off the plane as quick as possible at the risk of my safety.
Thankfully once I’m back in my wheelchair he leaves to go and drive the Ambulift. We are left with the two lovely special assistance agents in the Ambulift who chat away to us. They are completely the opposite to the driver and what I always expect from the service at Edinburgh Airport special assistance.
Additional Services Available At Edinburgh Airport
An amazing service available at Edinburgh Airport is the Welcome App, created by Neatebox. The Welcome App has been designed to allow the user to request specific assistance when visiting venues and in this instance, Edinburgh Airport. This means that you can notify the staff at Edinburgh Airport that you are on your way, on the tram for example or have arrived. They will then come to meet you and provide the required assistance, such as guiding you into the airport. The Welcome App helps staff understand your requirements and improves disability awareness, which improves the user’s overall customer service.
The Eagle 2 Lifter is also available to Edinburgh Airport and I was lucky to be the first to try it out a few years ago. The Eagle Lifter provides disabled passengers with a safe and dignified transfer from their wheelchair to their seat on the plane. This completely eliminates the need for manual lifting and the uncomfortable aisle chair. This fantastic hoist can be essential for many disabled passengers wishing to travel by air and should be available at all airports. You can read all about my experience using the Eagle 2 Lifter, which I wrote for Muscular Dystrophy UK.
I want to say that my experience with Edinburgh Airport Special Assistance has on the whole been very positive over the years. It’s unfortunate that this one Ambulift driver had such a horrible attitude and manner, but thankfully it is not what always happens. The service I received on my outbound flight was fantastic by Gary and Reece as was the two special assistance agents (Douglas and I’m not sure of the others name) on the inbound flight apart from the driver.
Have you been to Edinburgh Airport? What has been your experience of Special Assistance at airports you have travelled to/from? Do you have a favourite?
Thank you to Omniserv and easyJet for allowing me to film my experience.