Navigating Airports

Airports are infamous for their hustle and bustle, but that doesn't have to stop you from flying. This month we walked through the first steps of how to start and end your air travel with less stress.

September 25, 2019

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Audio Transcript


Travel Talk – Navigating Airports

Presented by Debbie Worman and Jennifer Ottowitz

September 25, 2019

Debbie W: Good afternoon. This is Debbie Worman and I want to welcome you to Travel Talk. For today's discussion I will be your host. Along with me is Jennifer Ottowitz, who is a Senior Learning Expert with Hadley. Jennifer you want to say hey?

Jennifer O: Hi everyone. Thanks for joining us.

Debbie W: Great. So we're good to go! Debbie Good, who is your regular host for Travel Talk had asked us to fill in for her today, has she, at the moment I think as we're speaking, is on a plane back from her trip to Paris. So I'm sure she'll have lots of interesting information to share with you about Paris.

So we want to welcome you to today's discussion group Travel Talk. And the topic today is Traveling by Airplane. And we're going to discuss all things good about airports. Or for some people, it might all things bad, I don't know. It should be interesting. Jennifer and I want to share with you ways to make your experience more positive and less stressful. Many people don't like to travel by plane so maybe this discussion group will give you some ideas and prompt that.

In today's session we want to cover five areas. If we get through them all that's great. If we have to come back next week, next month and finish up that's great too. But we're going to try and cover five areas today. One, navigating the airport. Two, making it through security. Three, getting on and off the plane. Four, what happens when you're on that actual plane and in your seat? And five, gosh darn it, how am I going to find my luggage when I need it? So those are the five areas we're going to cover today. We're going to start off with navigating the airport. Jennifer, you want to take it away?

Jennifer O: Sure. We're going to assume you've already done that planning of your trip. You're already planned. You got your ticket. You packed your bags and you're all set to go. So we're going to kind of take it from the point where you're at the airport and you just stepped out of the cab, maybe a friend dropped you off. You may be traveling with family. You may be traveling on your own. I should say I personally love traveling by plane. I think it's a really safe, really great way to travel. I've had the pleasure of being able to travel, I told Debbie, I counted 27 states which I was pretty excited about. The longest flight I was ever on was an eight-hour flight from Minneapolis to Honolulu. And then I've been able to fly to Canada and Jamaica as well. And overall my experiences have been very good. I mean there have been delays. There have been times when I got stuck in Detroit overnight because of a snowstorm, but overall, I think that the people that work at the airports, that work for the airlines have all been very nice. And the good experiences far outweigh the bad. And we were talking in preparing for the day saying that patience, being patient, being proactive, those are really important whenever you're flying.

But let's go ahead and start when you're at the airport. How are you going to get around? One thing you can do, and talking about being prepared, there are actually a couple of websites that you can go to, to get a description and an overview of the different airports. And sometimes that can be really helpful if you have low vision, a cane, use a dog guide, just kind of knowing where things are, knowing what restaurants are there, what shops might be there, things like that. So we're going to include, don't worry about writing these down or trying to remember them, we're going to include all of them in our show notes. That's our document of resources that'll be available once the recording of this discussion is available. So in about a week or so. And you can check on our website for that or contact Debbie or myself and we can make sure you get that information. But is one. That's cheap as in inexpensive. I thought that one was a fun name. But they will give you information about the layout of airports.

There are a couple of ways that you can get assistance if you so choose to get through the airport. One is through a Meet and Assist person. And whenever you make your airline reservations you can, if you so choose, identify yourself as needing assistance so you can check the box that says you're blind or low vision, if you're traveling with a wheelchair, if you're traveling with a service animal. And even if you don't do that you can still request a Meet and Assist at the airport. I always like to put it in my reservation though ahead of time so they can know that I'm there and it's all official. Whether I check my bags curbside, or I'll go into the ticket counter, and this is even if I've already printed off my boarding pass, which now a lot of people, you can check in online prior to getting to the airport. I like to do this because I think I'm all official and, in the system, and hopefully the plane won't take off without me. That's my wishful thinking if I'm late or something.

But then I can just go to the ticket counter or to the curbside check in and get assistance checking my bag. And then I, even though it might be in their computer system, I always ask for the Meet and Assist. And the airlines sometimes have companies they work with. The airport may contract with a company. And they will have a person come to walk with you to your gate. They can do human guide with you. They can just kind of lead so you can follow if using a guide dog, dog guide. I always get the terms mixed up. And they will take you all the way through security and to your gate. Sometimes they will come with a wheelchair and they may ask if you want to ride in a wheelchair. Now you do not have to ride in a wheelchair. And you can politely tell them that you don't need that. You just need assistance walking. And they should respect that and usually do and you're good to go.

Now if you do have trouble walking long distances feel free to use the wheelchair. There's nothing wrong with that. The person, again, can take you through security. If you need assistance finding the restroom, they can help you find it. If they're of the opposite sex they will obviously not go into the bathroom with you, but if it's a same sex person they may escort you into the bathroom so you can find everything that you need.

They will also help you get to a restaurant to purchase food or water or anything like that if you want. And it's not necessary, it's not required that you tip them, but it's usually customary to do so. And I usually tip a little bit more depending on the amount of assistance that I'm requesting. So if I've asked them to help me get food and find the bathroom and it's kind of been a long trip through the airport, I may pay a little bit more in tip than just traveling a short distance between gates if I'm making a connecting flight. So that's one option. Another option is call TSA Care. And this is through TSA, I always forget, Transportation Security Administration.

Debbie W: That sounds right to me.

Jennifer O: Good, thank you. TSA are, of course, the people that screen your luggage, right? They're the people that work at the security checkpoints. And with TSA Care, if you call 72 hours in advance of your flight you can let them know that you're coming and you have special needs. They will meet you usually at the security checkpoint. Now there at times when they may meet you curbside and help you navigate through the airport, but they're really primarily to meet you at the security checkpoint. And they can make sure that you get through security okay. They will also watch your possessions as they go through security.

I had someone who told me the story that their purse got kind of dumped out by a TSA worker and the TSA Care person, who's called a Passenger Support Specialist, a PSS, P as in Paul, S as in Sam, S as in Sam. That the PSS let the worker know that you're not supposed to do that. And the PSS assisted the passenger in putting everything back in their purse. So they kind of just watch your stuff, make sure that it all gets back to you. You get all your shoes on, everything else. We'll talk about going through security in a little bit, but then they stop at that point. They are not responsible for getting you to your gate. There may be some instances where they might assist you with that, but that's primarily to help you get through that security process. And that can be a little daunting. There's several different lines. They might pre-check, they might not. What do I have to take off in terms of jackets and belts and jewelry and things like that? So they can help you with that.

A third option for navigating the airport, and this is a newer one, is using the AIRA service. You may be familiar with that, you may not. But what AIRA is, it involves an app on your phone.

Debbie W: Jennifer, could you spell that?

Jennifer O: Yeah, thank you. It's A-I-R-A. And there's an app on your phone, on your cell phone that you download. And you can talk to a person, a specially trained agent, who will act as your eyes. And you either use the camera, built-in camera in your cell phone or you can purchase through them special glasses that have a camera on them. And that way the agent sees whatever you’re "looking at". Some passengers like to, or people when they're traveling, like to wear a lanyard or a neck strap to hold their phone so they don't have to try to hold the phone with the camera pointing out. They're carrying their cane, carrying their luggage, traveling with their dog guide. That can get a little tricky so sometimes a neck strap or lanyard can help hold it. Now AIRA-

Debbie W: That's a good suggestion. I wouldn't have thought of that. So I like that.

Jennifer O: Yeah, it's very helpful. Now AIRA has contracted with different airports around the country to provide free access. And they actually have a list of these airports. We'll include the link to where you can find that information in the show notes. The free access means that you can talk to the agent and you'll not get charged for that call. Usually the AIRA service offers this assistance free for the first five minutes. So if you make a five-minute call or less to ask anything, it could be to check the color of the clothes you're wearing. Is this my red shirt? It could be to look at your boarding pass. Can you tell me my seat assignment again? Can you tell me the way to get to the restroom? Maybe if you're at the gate area and you need to stretch your legs or you want to take care of going to the restroom before you get on the plane, they can kind of be your eyes to guide you there. If it's less than five minutes, it's free in most cases. And it's free at these particular airports. If the airport is not in partnership with AIRA you can still use their service, it's just that it'll cost you after more than five minutes.

What the agent will do, whenever you go through security, you would put your phone in the bin and they will, you would be kind of separated from the agent at that point, but you don't have to turn off your phone or disconnect the call. They would stay connected to you so that once you went through security you could just pick up and continue with them to get to the gate.

So I think this is probably a good place to stop, Debbie, and see if anyone has maybe used any of these three services before when they've traveled by plane or in airports.

Debbie W: Yeah. That's a good idea Jennifer. The thing that I would like to share is please keep in mind that these are tips and tricks that we're suggesting only. When you consider what you're going to do when you get to the airport you do have to know your own comfort level and what your own mobility experiences are and what your own common sense is, right? So a lot of people may not want assistance. These are just ideas and tips and tricks. One size doesn't fit all. So check them out and see what fits for you. And I also wanted to share that Jennifer is visually impaired. So when she says she's traveled 27 states and Canada and Mexico, I forget where else Jennifer.

Jennifer O: Jamaica. I want to go to Mexico, but it was Jamaica.

Debbie W: It was Jamaica, okay. So she does know what she's talking about. She's been there, done that. So she's sharing from firsthand experience. She is visually impaired. I myself am sighted. And I do not like to travel by plane. I'm a car person and so I like to travel by automobile. So my job here is just to kind of host today. I don't have a lot of ideas. So that's why I was panicking, Jennifer, when I couldn't unmute you. It would have been a very interesting discussion group. So we're going, we've got some hands up and we're going to hear from Barb who wants to share some experience with us. Barb, I'll unmute you. Go ahead please.

Barb: Well first of all I have a question. What is the typical amount of a tip?

Jennifer O: That is a great question, Barb. Thank you. And it really, I mean it's a personal thing for you. I've seen, one thing I read was the woman, typical tip was $5. And then if service was extraordinary, she'd give $10. I have to say I'm probably a little more cheap than that because it adds up. This person helps you in this leg. Another person helps you for this leg. Another person helps you for this leg. And I truly believe in giving them a little extra for their service. I don't know how much their payment is, usually they’re salaried, but I think of it like wait staff. They probably don't get paid nearly enough. But I may do a couple of dollars, $2, $3. I would say anything in that area. Anything you can give though I think they would appreciate. And some of the workers do turn down tips. So like I said it's not required by any means. But I would say $2 minimum, again, depending on what they're, how much assistance they're giving. And the quality of that assistance too, I think. But there's no hard and fast rule that I know of.

Barb: Okay.

Debbie W: Okay. Barb, did you have anything else you wanted to add?

Barb: I have not had a whole lot of experience flying. My first trip I was so excited so that was okay. The second trip I was actually considered legally blind. I was not using a cane yet, but I still asked for assistance because I was traveling alone. Had not hardly any experience flying so I was able to ask for assistance to get me from the ticket counter all the way back to the gate. They were all very helpful. The only concern I had is that I'm also hard of hearing and so it was very hard for me to hear any of the overhead pages or at that point it was already getting hard to see some of the signs. And when I got to the boarding gate, I made sure I let them know I'm visually impaired and hard of hearing. And they were able to assure me that whoever was at the ticket counter would be watching me and letting me know, would indicate or come get me when it was time to get on the plane.

Debbie W: Yeah, but Barb, you raise a very good point Barb. And I'm sorry for interrupting, but this is a major point for me is any traveler and when you're traveling with anybody or by yourself use your self-advocacy skills. You heard Barb say, "I let them know." So it's very important to be a good self-advocate because people can't just look at you and know you need something or know what your needs are. So good for you for letting them know Barb.

Barb: Yes. The only problem I had is that I didn't feel comfortable asking someone to take me to the bathroom.

Debbie W: Yeah, well it-

Barb: Now that my vision is a lot worse, I won't have a problem asking.

Debbie W: Okay. And what I was talking about is what is your comfort level? Do you need just to know where the bathroom is? Where the door is? Where the stall is? Get a quick orientation of the restroom. So what is your comfort level? How much assistance or no assistance do you want? Sometimes I've heard from people that the person is the human guide is so slow that they just, they're like let me go myself. So sometimes you have to know your comfort level. So great, Barb. Thanks for sharing that.

Barb: [inaudible].

Jennifer O: I remember a time when a male Meet and Assist worker was helping me and I asked to use the restroom and I was perfectly fine with trying to figure it all out on my own. They're not easy because they're all arranged differently and can be big and echoey and things, but I was going to do it. Someone was walking in before me and he asked the lady, just a strange lady, "Would you mind helping her?" So sometimes passengers, other passengers are unlikely helpers when you need one. But they're usually more than willing to help as well.

Debbie W: Well Jennifer I think that's an excellent point. I think it's important. I'm sighted. If I needed help, I would ask where's the restroom. I mean I get turned around very easily. My sense of direction is terrible. If you tell me to go right, I'll go left. So we have to be comfortable in knowing and how, how to ask for assistance, right? And so maybe it is asking another traveler, hey, can you, and I think it's a good opportunity to do some education about visual impairment and to help people feel comfortable with it because even as a sighted person I need help when I'm in places. So does anybody else anything to share about how they've navigated airports? Have you tried any of the resources that Jennifer shared? I have area code 813. I'm going to unmute you and if you can share your name, I can give you a name instead of calling you 813.

Van: My name is Van and I'm calling from Florida. And I'd like to share the number to TSA Care, so it'll be in the show notes. That number is 855-787-2227. That's for TSA Care. And I have used that in the past, but also, I wanted to share the fact that don't be too proud to ask for a wheelchair. And I'll say that because usually when I travel alone my husband or someone will take me to the airport. They won't leave the curbside until they know that I am in the chair with assistance, with a person that will take me from the curbside to the gate. And the reason I like that is because first of all, they zoom through the airport really fast and also, they take you to the front of the security line. They'll make sure you go through the security line.

Debbie W: Oh, isn't that sneaky of you Van. I like that. Yeah, good for you!

Van: I have had them take me to the gate. And not only that, but they will check with the attendant at the gate to be sure I'm in the right spot and that takeoff time is at the appropriate time. And then if you're flying airlines like Southwest where you go by groups, they will take you to the front of the line so you will be the first passengers along with the babies and all the other people to board. And then that gives you a little bit more time to get adjusted. So, that is my little trick. Even though I can walk, not that far, but I can walk I prefer to use them. And I normally tip them, if they do all, I normally tip them anywhere from $10 to $15 because they have been just gracious.

Debbie W: I like that.

Jennifer O: Thank you so much. Yeah, thank you.

Debbie W: Van, are you the Van that attends the Resource Roundtable?

Van: Yes, yes.

Debbie W: I thought so. Well great to have you on today. Nice to hear from you. Thanks for sharing that great trick.

Jennifer O: And that brings up something. I mean there are times, I have really short legs and sometimes when you have to walk from one end of the airport to the other and you have five minutes to do it in between planes because your first one was late getting in, you may consider that wheelchair. And it may not be a terrible thing or mean that you're not being as independent as you can. It's about making choices, right? So yeah, like Van said, don't be too proud. Do what you're comfortable with and definitely make it your choice. Thanks so much!

Debbie W: Okay, I don't see any other hands up, Jennifer. If we want to move onto getting through security. What is it like to go through security? Is my nose ring and all my body piercings going to set off the alarms? Is my guide dog going to set off the alarms? Maybe I threw in some shampoo that I shouldn't have. I don't travel because I'd be so paranoid I wouldn't make it through security. So can you help me with that?

Jennifer O: Sure, and we're going to talk about those body piercings another time! Anyway, well one thing, and for those of you who have traveled I mean going through security can be one of the easiest things or the most daunting things, sometimes frustrating things. So there are lots of things that can happen. And one thing that I just recently found out about that you can get information about on the TSA website at, is that they have a form that you can print out in their disability and medication section. It's a form that you can identify different equipment that you might be traveling with, things like an insulin pump, a continuous glucose monitor, a colostomy bag that you may wear. Things that you may not want to advertise to everybody by shouting out or trying to go into a lengthy explanation about what it is and why you can't remove it from your body and that type of thing. This card you can just present to the TSA personnel. They usually, at the beginning of the security checkpoint there's a person there who checks your ID and your boarding pass. And you can present this to them. And it kind of states what issues, or what equipment you're doing, what the issues may be and they can coordinate with TSA personnel appropriately to figure out the best way to do things.

One thing we recently found out, my husband and I, is that a continuous glucose monitor if you wear one you cannot go through the body scan. They usually have a couple of different types of scanners. One you just walk through the full body scan machine. There's one where you have to go up a little incline. You turn sideways. You put your hands up in the air. I always say I feel like I'm being arrested. And then they do a quick scan and you walk out the other side. Well with a continuous glucose monitor you're not allowed to use that because it'll mess up the sensor. So letting the TSA folks know about that.

There are the usual things in terms of what you can put through the, what you can keep in the carryon and put through the, I always call it the conveyor belt scanner. In terms of liquids, all that information is available on the website. Usually you want your liquids that you're going to have, carryon with you to be in three-ounce bottles or less. There are some, you know insulin is a medication that's allowed, but other liquid medication, you always want to check with the airline or with TSA to see what's allowed. And they have a whole list of things.

In terms of taking off your shoes, if you're 75 years or older you do not have to take off your shoes or a light jacket. The rest of us have to take off our shoes unless you have a pre-check status. And that pre-check status might be just random when you print off your boarding pass you might be the lucky one that you don't have to take off your shoes or you might get to go through the special line. Or you can pay for TSA pre-check status. And that's an annual fee. I believe it's annual. They also have, they have two different versions. One for domestic travel and Trusted Traveler is for international travel. And that will give you the privilege, I like to say, of going through the pre-check line. It's a shorter line. Often you don't have to take your, go through as much hassle.

There are some small airports that I've been to though where they don't have that line and people, even people who have that status have to kind of go through just like the rest of us. Your cane, I usually fold up my cane and put it through the conveyor belt. And then what this means is that the TSA person helps me get to the opening where I have to walk through, the opening of the metal detector, and the agent on the other side will stick their hand through. They wear plastic gloves. And they stick their hand through. I just grab their hand and then walk through.

The body scan where you have to turn sideways gets a little tricky because there are footprints on the floor where you're supposed to line up. And I've had some interesting times with the TSA people trying to tell me how to stand in those machines. They've actually taken their foot and placed their foot by the footprint so then all I have to do is touch my foot to their foot. And sometimes I've even had to try, them try to bend down and pick up my foot and move it, which doesn't usually work. I've even had TSA give me, it was a wooden, like a support cane, to help me get, help me walk into the body scan device. And then I just, I didn't need it for support, but it was just a way to detect the object to and help me get in and just handed it back on the other side.

Using a dog guide, and I don't know if we have any dog guide users with us today, but there are a couple of different ways that dog guides can go through the scanner. They can go through with you. They will set off the metal detector and you'll both have to be wanded. You can go through first. Some people will put their dog on a long leash. The leash itself won't set off the detector, but the harness will. And so then the dog would need to be wanded. Sometimes you may decide to take off the harness, the leash, put on a mesh collar and walk through. There's several different ways to do it. And sometimes when you go through security once you get through the scanner they may request to, I call it dust your hands, or the bottoms of your shoes, your feet actually. I've had them, when I went through, I had pre-check status I was able to keep my shoes on. They actually had to check the soles of my shoes. And it's nothing, you don't have to, I would say don't panic. I thought of my third "P" when I was talking to Debbie. I said be prepared, be polite and be proactive. It can be daunting and sometimes scary. They're just doing their job. You have nothing to hide. It takes just a few minutes and you could be one your way.

There are some things, I would say, definitely keep your liquids in the quart size, clear quart size bags like is recommended on the TSA website. In terms of snacks, you could take snacks with you as long as they're not in liquid form. I have had, one time a bought some beignet mix in New Orleans and they had to scan it. They had to double check to make sure what it was because I was carrying it in my carryon bag. But you can take snacks with you. That's not a problem. They may ask you to remove them. Sometimes I've had, people ask me to remove my bag of liquids. Sometimes I've been told that I don't have to remove them. So be prepared to take them out. I like to keep them in an easy to reach place that I can just get to quickly. And that's some of the main points about security.

I'm going to just open it up and Debbie, if you have any questions or anyone else have experiences they've had through security, questions you may have. I should say that usually you don't have to take off your belt, but it depends on what size belt buckle you have. A watch is okay, rings are okay. Necklaces are usually okay, but again, it might depend on how ornate they are too.

Debbie W: So it seems Jennifer you may prepare as much as you want and you may know what to expect, but there can be some zingers thrown in. So it's always important to know when you're in the airport at any time or even going through security you may get thrown off what you think is going to happen. So that's when you just have to ground yourself again and say I can get through this. A plane could be canceled. A plane could be delayed. Something could happen in security, not your fault, but things could just get a little hectic. And so you have to just say, okay, I'm going to go with this. I'm not going to panic. This is part of traveling. You can prepare all you want, but also prepare for the unexpected. So, that's something I wanted to add. I learned from you Jennifer. I'm going to have to buy new socks. If I have to take my shoes off, I have to have socks with no holes.

Jody: Hello there. This is Jody. I wanted to clarify a previous person mentioned she was in a wheelchair and was able to pre-board. Anybody can pre-board. You just, when you get to the gate you go up to the desk and you just tell them I'd like to pre-board because I'm visually impaired or I have a guide dog or whatever. And you can definitely pre-board. So you don't have to be in a wheelchair. And I found that, in my experiences, every airport is different and each one has their own culture, and some are big and some are small and some are easy and some are harder. And I've done both. I've done both with assistance. And sometimes I'll just wing it. If it's a small airport I figure everybody going in is going to the same place so I just kind of, somebody will, I've got a guide dog so people will usually come and oh, what a beautiful dog. And they'll say, "Oh, can I walk with you? Do you mind?" And I've found I can get all the way from going in the door to my gate just by following other passengers.

The same thing with going to luggage. After the flight everybody leaving the plane wants to get their luggage. So I'll just go with the flow down to luggage pickup and that's usually where I meet the person that I want to connect with. Although you can get, if someone is picking you up or bringing you to the airport, you can get an escort pass for that person. And then that person is actually allowed to walk with you all the way to the gate and actually meet you at your gate when you arrive. They have to go through security and everything like that, but your friend can get an escort pass.

Jennifer O: And that is a great thing. Thank you for bringing that up. I did forget to mention that. Now typically, my experience has been they cannot meet you at your gate. They must be escorting you or with you, but you can have one person, they can meet you right outside security.

Jody: Okay.

Jennifer O: But they can travel with you, definitely to your gate. And that's really nice.

Jody: I did do that in Hartford. And again, each airport has a different culture and-

Jennifer O: Absolutely. You got it.

Jody: Some airports the assistants there they don't speak English and you have a bit of a problem. Other airports are small. It all depends on where you are.

Jennifer O: That is so true. Some airports are more strict with the rules and they follow everything to the letter. Some are a little more lenient, right?

Jody: Yeah, right.

Jennifer O: That's a very good point.

Jody: Yeah, I can also comment about traveling with a guide dog too. Well traveling with a guide dog really, it makes it a lot more interesting. I always travel Southwest, which has open seating which I love because I get on first. I get a bulkhead seat and then the people that sit next to me are doing so because they don't mind sitting next to a dog. Where with an assigned seat you might have a problem with people. But I've never really, I've never had any problems going through security or anything like that. They will pat the dog down and the dog usually thinks they want to play. But the only time I ran into a problem with that was the poor TSA agent was terrified of dogs. And I said, "This isn't fair because you shouldn't have to do this if you're so terrified." I said, "Isn't there somebody else who could?" She said, "Well, it's part of my job description." I reassured her that my dog was okay and all that. But I felt really bad for the poor agent.

Jennifer O: Yeah, and I should mention too that now many, I think, I thought all of the airports were supposed to, but some are easier to find than others, are supposed to have a designated dog relief area within the gate area so you don't have to leave security.

Jody: That's true. That's true. Although some of them are indoor and a lot of dogs won't relieve indoors.

Jennifer O: Exactly. They're not always the nicest place to visit. I will be honest.

Jody: Right.

Jennifer O: But they do also have dog relief areas outside security. And you can get an escort outside. And I even know of one person who would purposely schedule maybe connecting flights to give time for, to take the dog to relieve himself and make sure there was enough time they weren't so close that there wasn't enough time to do that too.

Jody: Yeah, airline personnel will have ... Also one flight I took, they took my dog and the person took her out to relieve and then brought her back. And of course, I'm thinking oh my gosh, I hope they get back in time for my flight!

Debbie W: There's a comfort level that comes in there to trust someone to take your guide dog, right?

Jody: Yeah. And the dog wasn't particularly happy about going away with a stranger either. So I wouldn't recommend that.

Jennifer O: Okay.

Debbie W: Well Jody you really shared some great ideas. You raised some good points about the different size of airports. I know Jennifer and I were talking beforehand. I asked her what some of her favorite airports were. And we were thinking as a suggestion if you never traveled by plane before, maybe you don't want your first trip to take you through Atlanta or O'Hare. You might not want to try one of those big airports as your first practice. Maybe you want to plan a trip that takes you through a smaller airport. So that might, you know if you have some ... It might make you feel more comfortable. Have you had a favorite airport, Jody?

Jody: Actually I've gone out of, well West Palm Beach isn't too bad. Orlando and Tampa are kind of intimidating. And I've also gone through Manchester, New Hampshire, which is a delightful little teeny airport. And Hartford isn't too bad either.

Debbie W: Okay, yeah, so try that. Try a smaller airport. When you feel comfortable try those bigger ones. So thank you for your ideas, Jody.

Jody: Thank you.

Debbie W: I appreciate it. Does anybody else have any stories that they want to share about security or any other tips? Okay, if not, Jennifer you want to go to getting on and off the plane? And maybe just work into while you're on the plane? Sure. I do have a hand up. Hold on.

Jennifer O: Sure.

Debbie W: 8112. 8112, go ahead.

Denise: Hi, I'm Denise from southern Indiana.

Debbie W: Hi.

Denise: I just wanted to say that I have also used the assistance to fly with the airport. And it's just wonderful. I'm very able to walk myself. And I have used it with a guide dog and without a guide dog. I refuse the wheelchair, but ask the person walking with me to speed up because they do think that you're not going to be able to walk fast pace or whatever. And tips are great. And the young man even did take me to the bathroom and stood in the doorway and described the bathroom to me, which I thought was wonderful. But it's always nice to have a small fold up cane for the feeling things in and out of bathroom and everything.

But the other thing that I wanted to share is when I get my luggage I don't know if anybody's familiar with Tile? I use a Tile in my luggage. And it can be called by my cell phone and that has helped me. So I can get my luggage right away. It'll beep. And that helps me find my things. And before I even purchased these Tiles I used to tie a really big, bright something around my suitcase handle so that, you know like a ribbon, a headband or something and I could tell an attendant or someone who's retrieving me from the airport that there's a yellow ribbon or whatever on that suitcase. And it would easily be found by whoever's working with you.

Debbie W: Well thanks, Denise. Those are great suggestions and you're stealing Jennifer's thunder because she's going to talk about that later. But that's fine because we're not going to get, I don't think we're going to get to that today. So I'm glad you mentioned that. And I think, Jennifer, you'll have a resource for those talking Tiles. We'll put that on the show notes, right?

Jennifer O: Yeah, and I thought, we just talked about it just now for a little bit since Denise brought it up because, absolutely right, Denise. And thank you so much for mentioning them. I'm glad to know that they work well for you, at least I hope they do.

Denise: Yes. They're wonderful. They are wonderful.

Jennifer O: Excellent.

Denise: I find my way around outside too like that. I hide them in trees and find paths with those.

Jennifer O: There you go! And now I even heard too they work in reverse too so if you're having trouble finding your phone you can push the button on the Tile and your phone will beep. So it can work in reverse.

Denise: Exactly.

Jennifer O: Which is a real nice thing.

Denise: I have it on my talking book. I put it on my talking book because I lay that around everywhere too.

Jennifer O: Multiple uses.

Denise: Yes.

Jennifer O: But identifying your luggage, real quickly. I mean, it's still important to know even if you have no vision at all what color is my suitcase, the approximate size. Is it a large one, a small one? Because of course, anyone who assists you will say what does your suitcase look like? So it's good to be able to describe it to someone who will be identifying it visually. And if you could put something on there that will identify it like a brightly colored ribbon. My husband painted on the metal near the handle on one of old suitcases. Something that contrasts that going to stand out, a florescent colored luggage tag is great. Hadley used to have these wonderful yellow luggage grips that we would give out at conferences and stuff to wrap around the handle. So anything you can find that will kind of make that stand out as yours. Even buying a suitcase that's a different color. Everybody tends to go for the standard black suitcase, right? But if yours is purple or has lots of flowers on it, it may stand out from other ones. So those are some fun ways. But the Tiles are becoming a really popular item for lots of different uses. All right.

Debbie W: Well Jennifer, we're going to run out of time. So I think what we're going to do at this point is just open up, open up the discussion to comments and questions and then Debbie Good, when she comes back next month, I think we're going to have part two of travel because there's so much you can talk about, right? We can't cover it all in one hour. There are two hands up. Why don't we take questions and comments or feedback? Anything that you want to share about your travels. We will, I will unmute you and Jennifer if you can, if there's anything that you think you really want to add later, we can do that, okay?

Jennifer O: Sure, not a problem. Sounds great.

Debbie W: Okay. I knew this was going to happen. We were going to run out of time.

Jennifer O: That's okay.

Debbie W: There's so much to talk about and that's okay. Nisha, am I saying your name right? I'm going the unmute you.

Nisha: Hi, yes you're saying my name right.

Debbie W: Good.

Nisha: My name is Nisha. I'm from Toronto, Canada. I have two questions. The first one is the second last caller mentioned that a family member or a companion who is not traveling could walk with you through security to the gate. Was that correct?

Jennifer O: Yes, you can get a gate pass for, and I know here in the U.S. you can. And I would assume that in Canada you can as well.

Nisha: How does that work?

Jennifer O: Yeah, you would ask, even if you check in ahead of time I would, you can print off your boarding pass ahead of time. Once you get to the airport go to the ticket counter and let them know this person will be escorting you to the gate and to ask for a gate pass. And they can direct you from there. I would also recommend that the family member or friend or whoever's going to be escorting you, let them know ahead of time so they can be prepared to take all the sharp objects out of their pockets or make sure they have a photo ID and everything that would be needed to go through security.

Nisha: Okay. Perfect, thank you.

Jennifer O: Sure.

Nisha: And my second question was for the AIRA app you had mentioned after five minutes, you get the first five minutes free, but then afterwards you pay. Is it per minute you pay? And if so, how much?

Jennifer O: They actually have different payment plans. And so we'll include information about the app and kind of how to find out information about the payment plans. They include so many. You would pay a flat fee for so many minutes per month. But they have a variety of different plans too. So I would direct you to the AIRA staff to get a full rundown on all of the different options that you have.

Nisha: Okay. Thank you.

Jennifer O: Sure.

Debbie W: Thanks for your questions, Nisha. Thanks a lot.

Nisha: Sure.

Debbie W: Okay, I have guest with area code 757. 757.

Ben: How you doing? My name is Ben. Hello?

Debbie W: Ben?

Ben: Hello? Yeah, this is Ben in Virginia Beach.

Debbie W: Okay, hi Ben.

Ben: Doing pretty good. I wanted to make a comment and also ask a question. The comment was I've traveled a couple of times and used assistance. One of things I've notice with assistance is you definitely, with some not all, have to let them know your comfortability as being guided. Some will maybe try to pull. Some will do different things, especially when it comes to the escalators and walking sidewalks. They are not sure on your comfortability so they sometimes want to hold your arm, which can throw you off especially if you're a cane user.

Debbie W: Right, right, good point.

Ben: So when you're in the airport, if you are going to use assistance, definitely have those conversations with the person that's assisting you on your comfortability and what you're comfortable as far as appropriate way of being guided. And once you get to your gate don't assume that they're going to let someone there know that you're there and your visual impairment or your disability. You have to speak up because there are times where people, it gets crowded, it gets disoriented or people change shifts and they have no idea that you're there. So you definitely have to speak up.

My question is, with the AIRA, using that app, is there a possibility of using Be My Eyes instead of AIRA since that is a free app to use?

Jennifer O: That's a very good question. I would assume so. I don't, I'm not as familiar with that to know duration of calls and how long you could stay on. The other thing I know that with AIRA, and again they will, most of the airports now are, a lot of the airports have the free service so even if it's over five minutes you won't get charged. But with Be My Eyes, I don't know if they are directed to automatically disconnect the call like if you go to the bathroom. Would they stay on the call? I don't know some of those kinds of issues.

Ben: Okay.

Jennifer O: But it'd be worth a try to see, to get information. Give it a try.

Debbie W: Yeah, that's a good idea, Ben. Maybe you'll have to check that out next time you travel. And with Be My Eyes, if you had to wait for somebody to come on how long would that take?

Ben: Yeah, I guess either that or if you have an iPhone you could use maybe FaceTime or something like that and have someone-

Jennifer O: Exactly! Right.

Ben: -that you're comfortable with, that maybe a family member knows that you're traveling and they can actually while you have your phone on a lanyard be able to see around if you don't want to use the assistance that's available at the airport.

Jennifer O: Absolutely, absolutely. That real time assistance in terms of when you're walking. Are the able to give you the information you need and everything. And those are two great options. So thanks.

Debbie W: Thank you, Ben.

Ben: Before I get off ,one more comment. When you're on your flight and you're actually getting on the best thing to do is definitely talk to one of the stewardesses on there and let them know your situation because sometimes it's not informed to them whether you need assistance getting on or off. So usually once they know that you're there and your situation they'll keep an eye out for you whether you get off boarding last or first. They'll make sure that you get where you need to be, and they'll have someone meet you at the gate.

Debbie W: Great idea, Ben. Appreciate it. And you bring up-

Ben: No problem.

Debbie W: -my favorite topic is self-advocacy. So, if some of our participants today touched on that. So you have to be good self-advocates. The person that's assisting you is not a trained O&M specialist. And so you have to do some advocacy for yourself. So thank you. Thank you everybody for participating today. Before I sign off and do my little housekeeping, Jennifer do you want to add anything before you go?

Jennifer O: I just wanted to close, I've changed my three "Ps" the four. So airline travel, it can be a lot of fun. It's helpful to be prepared, be patient, be polite and be proactive, which is another way of saying that self-advocacy and just letting people know what you need because don't assume that they know. And you're the one that knows you best. So just help other people know what you need and hopefully you'll have a really fun experience.

Debbie W: Right. And thank you Jennifer for sharing all your experience today. I really appreciate it hearing what you had to share with our participants. That's great.

So really thank you everybody today. We appreciate you listening and participating. Happy travels!