My experience at the airport was more of the usual. Busy, Chaotic, and mostly Unfriendly. I know that over the years I have modified my behavior and I made a point to “observe myself” (if there is such a thing) and really think about how I was accommodated at the airport.
My arrival in the car was uneventful. My husband dropped me off. I had already logged into the airline website and had my ticket. So, all I had to do was check my luggage. I went to the desk and the lady behind the desk said “Mmm hmm mhhh muffle muffle” and she was not looking directly at me. I was lipreading and anticipating that she would talk to me. So I knew that she was asking how I was. I anticipated that she would also ask the usual questions about my luggage like “have you had your luggage within your control at all times?” I vaguely remember that the first time they asked this very strange question I had no idea what they were trying to say and had them repeat it like 20 times. This trip, there were no questions about my luggage. whew
I took my luggage over to the ramp for the xray and the staff took it from me without much interest. I think I initiated a question about whether or not they needed me to stand by or if I should continue to the security check line. I again anticipated the answer and did some lipreading.
I am realizing that I maintain my independence by lipreading and anticipating. I knew this but only partially realized the extent of my reliance on experience. Anyone new to flying would be neglected in a lot of ways at a public airport.
I got to security and knowing that I don’t want to cause alarm I immediately told every security staff and office that I was hard of hearing and pointed to my ears. I make a point to do this with exaggeration so that they pay attention. Lots of people point to their ears even if they are not hard of hearing because of noise levels or inattention. So pointing to your ears doesn’t necessarily identify your hearing loss. I thought for a moment that I should have worn my pin (face me I read lips) but I rarely think it works with most people, so I resort to the pointing and telling instead.
I got through security check without issue and there is never a problem with my hearing aids and the detector devices.
I then went to catch the tram to transit over to the gates. The tram had some outlandishly loud announcement that said “HOLD ON” and I could have heard that without my aids. But it would still be a concern for those with profound hearing loss and those with loss of clarity. I found myself wishing that the cars were staffed or at least had bright visuals.
I arrived at my gate and spent some time walking about the airport. I noticed as the time drew near for my flight that people were walking out of the gate and heading elsewhere. I had time, so I followed the “herd” and when I arrived at the new gate I asked the attendant if I was indeed at the right location. I was and the airline had switched gates. That happens alot. So, I anticipated it and watched others for reactions. But I didn’t know from any announcement. I was not able to understand the announcements. However, knowing my abilities, I made a conscience effort to be aware of my surroundings, ask frequently when I was unsure and refer to the Arriving/Departing flight boards which give the status of the flights and the gate numbers.
When it got close to boarding time I assessed the group to determine if I would need to tell anyone I was hard of hearing. But the airline had boarding corrals and so, I knew when my line started to move, I was going to be boarding. When I stepped onto the plane I immediately spoke to the attendant who was welcoming us and explained that I would not be able to hear on the flight. I hoped that they would accommodate me by getting my attention when necessary. I probably could have gone into more details, but being a frequent flyer I determined that was unnecessary… plus it was a short trip.
The flight went well and I actually was in “hard of hearing bliss” with my hearing aids turned off. I didn’t have to hear the babies and small children screaming the whole way down or the loud engine noise. I just enjoyed my book and when the drink cart came around I gave my order (I anticipated this, of course).
I missed all the airline instructions and announcements because my hearing aids were turned off. I don’t recommend that a new flyer ignore these very important pieces of information.
When it was all said and done, my experience was good. But I realize that it was only good because my expectations were lowered. I anticipated everything and I knew what signs to look for and how to advocate for myself. There is much to improve on and I think all the industries can learn from our experiences. I encourage all of you to write to vendors and companies that you interact with and give your feedback. I hope that you can learn from my experience and hopefully be a little more prepared for your next trip to the airport.