Flying independently is a big deal for me. I use a walking frame to get around and I get tired very easily. I also have to use an oxygen tank when I fly because I am unable to automatically adjust to the change in altitude. In May I had to fly on my own and I didn't realise how much preparation was involved.
Navigating the system
I decided to fly to Israel to meet my parents who had been living there for three months. When I fly independently there are so many things that I have to take into consideration and that's why I always use my travel agent. A travel agent knows the system and can make sure that I don't forget anything. I also like knowing that there's someone I can call if I have any problems while I am away.
Flying to Israel is not a straightforward flight. There is usually one stopover and the flight is about 21 hours in total. Because the flight is so long it is important for me to have a stopover for a night, and the most common route is via Asia.
Too many choices
For this trip I chose to fly with Qantas and British Airways. The reason behind this decision was due to previous experiences. Some airlines use old-fashioned oxygen tanks that are too big to fit under the seat in front. The airline therefore makes you buy a second seat for the tank to be next to you. You also have to pay for the tank itself.
Flying to Israel with an economy ticket with the airline El Al can cost about $2500 and if I want oxygen on the flight I have to pay for another seat. That's another $2500, without tax. Flying on an economy fare with British Airways, the seat costs the same as an El Al seat but the oxygen is free. Qantas uses a small compact tank in a box which fits perfectly under the seat in front of you, but you have to pay $700 for the oxygen.
And lift off
When I checked in at Melbourne airport my travel agent had set up a
meet and greet so that a wheelchair was waiting for me. A wheelchair was also waiting for me when I landed. This service is available for domestic and international flights and there is no added cost. All you need to do is give 24 hours notice to the airline.
The long flight to Israel can be draining. It's important for me to get off the plane and stretch my legs. On this trip my travel agent booked a room for me at the airport hotel in Singapore. What was extremely helpful was that someone from the airport escorted me to the hotel and back to the airport to check in the next day. This service can be arranged with the airline a week before, and it doesn't matter whether you're flying economy, business or first class.
By working with my travel agent and taking advantage of the free services offered by the airlines I was able to feel prepared and safe for the big trip. If you want to get away, especially from the cold season, don't forget to get in touch with the airline 24 hours in advance and it should be a smooth ride.