I am no stranger to travelling by plane. There was a time between 2005 and 2007 when I commuted frequently between Penang and Kuala Lumpur and to other places by flight. It was the most convenient way for me to travel between the two cities since express buses and trains were not that accessible.
I will be travelling again in a couple of days but there is this nagging fear that has been bothering me. This will be the first time I am flying with my Tilite ZRA S2 wheelchair. Having had first-hand experience of having my wheelchair irreparably damaged during one of my trips in 2005, I am worried my wheelchair may be mishandled again.
While Malaysia Airlines compensated me fully for the damaged wheelchair due to the collective complaints from other bloggers, the process of getting a replacement while using the damaged chair was very inconvenient. The wheelchair that I used at that time was a standard lightweight wheelchair that was available in most shops selling rehabilitation equipment. The one I am using now is ultra lightweight, fully customised and handmade in the USA, and costs ten times as much.
Malaysia Airlines recommends that passengers purchase additional baggage insurance to cover loss or damage of valuable and important documents. The Tilite is a vital piece of hardware that I cannot do without. My very mobility and independence depend on it. It is as valuable as anything else can be to me.
MHInsure, the company providing travel insurance to Malaysia Airlines passengers, do not provide cover for specific items other than the three fixed insurance plans that they offer. The highest compensation for damaged or lost baggage is RM3,000. That is less than a quarter of the cost of my wheelchair.
Should the wheelchair frame or any of the parts become damaged, replacing them will be expensive, not to mention that it may take two weeks or more for the parts to arrive from the USA, and severely restrict my mobility for that duration.
It is no fun going on a trip and having to worry what the condition the wheelchair will be when it comes out from the cargo hold. Having a totalled wheelchair in a foreign land will be very devastating for the disabled person. The problem of being stranded may cascade into serious health problems such as pressure sores.
Airlines or the parties providing baggage handling services should train their staff to be more careful when moving wheelchairs. I pray the baggage handlers will be kind to my wheelchair on this trip and all my other upcoming trips.