Image of an airplane being loaded from the outside view. You can see the cargo area of the plane is open and there is a vehicle with a ramp next to it.

Quantum Can Fly!

Today, I’m going to talk about the challenges I faced when traveling to DC two weeks ago in my Quantum Wheelchair.

After checking my packing list making sure I packed everything (spoiler alert: I forgot my water bottle). I’m not just talking about socks, shoes, and clothes. I had to pack a bunch of medical equipment, my wheelchair charger, and my CPAP. Thankfully, one of the other people from Rochester who was driving to DC picked up my shower chair, oxygen concentrator, and other large medical equipment.

Fast forward to the next day when my mom and I got to the airport. We stood in the Delta line for about 15 minutes before realizing that we had booked our flights on American! Thankfully there wasn’t a line at their check-in desk. The check-in folks asked for the weight of my chair which I didn’t know then (but now I do), and they also asked what the battery type is and again I didn’t know (thanks google!).

After going through security where they swabbed my chair down, I learned to check the screens for incoming and outgoing flights to find mine. A quick pit stop in the little store for overpriced snacks and I made it to my gate.

At the gate, things became concerning! The gate ladies immediately noticed the size of my wheelchair and checked the flight roster to see that there were going to be three more power chairs on our flight. After searching for measuring tape for a while, they returned to measure my chair. At this point, my chair was too large to fit into the small hatch on the side of the aircraft. We began to look at other travel alternatives and airports, and then offered the option of fully reclining my chair in order for it to fit into the plane. I gave them a three-minute training on how to operate it. I shared with them that our friend with the same wheelchair took this flight often without any issues. Reluctantly, they said they would try to load my wheelchair in.

Image of Giana showing the airport staff how her Quantum power wheelchair can recline back. She is at the airline gate and is waiting to board.

I transferred to an aisle chair to make my journey through the jet bridge and to the entrance of the airplane. My mom supported me because I was super nervous not having armrests to use. We watched anxiously along with the flight attendants as my wheelchair made it up the ramp – after at least four to five strong adults lifted it onto the steep ramp! We held our breath as a guy just inside the hatch assisted my chair into the plane, barely making it through. We all cheered when my chair made it inside, then I made my way to my seat in row 12. I tried to negotiate with my mom for the window, but by now she had lifted me twice and was feeling it. Next time I’ll be strong enough to transfer myself!

I quickly discovered the free Wi-Fi and set myself up to watch a movie. In just about one hour, we were landing in DC. I was so excited to meet up with my girl gang from last summer again! My mom and I raced toward the metro area where we said our goodbyes and I was on my way. It was a challenging morning but worth every second. I had the time of my life in DC!

Author: Giana Bisnett