About two years ago flying Southwest home to Charleston from Albany the gate agent saw me hobble my way to the back of the A Line waiting to board. He came to me and pulled me to the front of the line and said I was Pre-Board and explained that anyone with mobility issues could board early with Pre-Board and that at my connection I just needed to tell the gate check agent I needed to pre-board and they would change my ticket no questions asked. It turns out there were other questions -two that they can ask and if you say yes you get your pre-board ticket:
- Do you need assistance boarding?
- Do you need a specific seat?
The first time my request for a pre-board ticket was followed up with these questions I was taken aback. My guy in Albany said that there would be no questions asked so I felt like I was being judged. Did they think I was faking? Is it because I am younger? This was at a time when I really should have been using a cane, but was too embarrassed to get one and felt the same way about making my request. So not only was I embarrassed to be asking for a special ticket, the follow-up questions then made me feel ashamed that I had done so. I did not need assistance boarding and I did not need a specific seat either. I needed to board early so I would not back up the whole line and being able to be up front is helpful for when I have to book it to my connection. I answered NO to both questions so the agent told me I could board with those who need additional time to board so between A and B. I stood up for myself and told her about the Southwest man in Albany pulling me out of line to pre-board. She went ahead and updated my ticket.
Since that time I started using a cane which acts as a beacon to let everyone know- this lady could probably use some help! Agents come up to me and ask if I need to pre-board? Will I need a wheelchair to get to the gate? A wheelchair at my destination? For now the answer to those questions is NO, but I know one day that could change.
A few months later I had another trip and saw the man who pulled me to the front of the line. I thanked him for addressing me and telling me that I should be pre-boarding. With the slow progression of my disease I have naturally adjusted to how my walk has deteriorated into my “normal.” I kinda forget just how bad it is! I can walk and I don’t have pain when I do so how could I qualify for special treatment? Having someone in charge tell me that I did made me realize it was OK to take advantage of their options, I was not taking advantage.