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Thread: how to get off a plane out on the tarmac?

  1. #1

    how to get off a plane out on the tarmac?

    We have been thinking about where to go on vacation with Anthony other than our great state of Florida. We just found out about disabled transportation in St. Thomas (see e-mail below). The situation i now have to figure out is how does a person that can't walk get off an airplane down to the ground when they park out on the tarmac. Since St. Thomas airport is small the planes don't go up to "gates" they park out on the tarmac and you walk down the stairs that they push up to the plane. I was told by Spirit Air that I would have to contact the St. Thomas airport to ask them how they get a person out of the plane down to the ground.

    Has anyone had any experience with this. Do they take you down the lift that brings up the food?

    I am also going to call AA as they have many flights to St. Thomas also. Spriti Air customer service sucks.

    For ppl that have a stop over on a cruise in St. Thomas at least you know that you can arrange a van to pick you up if you have some time to kill in port. Dial-A-Ride said they do 3 hour island tours (van with lift). I talked to them and you would have to register and a one time fee of $30 not $25 and then normal taxi fare applies.

    Not too encouraging about the bahamas; didn't have time to call that resource.

    Cindy Waters, Tampa, FL
    mom to Anthony c4,c5,c6; 27 yo
    March 2003

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: Mary Peterson
    Sent: Friday, April 03, 2009 12:51 PM
    Subject: RE: Ground Transportation

    Hi Tony & Cindy,

    Getting around, St. Thomas Dial-A-Ride provides accessible transportation in lift-equipped vans. Visitors pay a one-time registration fee of US$ 25, which includes a round trip transfer to any St. Thomas property. After that, St. Thomas Dial-A-Ride fares are equivalent to local taxi fares. St. Thomas Dial-A-Ride also offers accessible day tours of the island. Tours must be booked one month in advance, and transportation arrangements must be made at least 24 hours in advance.

    St.Thomas VI: Dial-A-Ride, 340-776-1277

    I can not find a company that offers accessible transportation in the Bahamas; it was suggested to me by the Bahamian Tourist board to try the following company.

    Transportation designed to accommodate wheelchairs, please be advised that such transportation is not readily available on island, we suggest calling Expert Travel at 1-242-351-4004 or

    Warm regards,

    Mary Peterson
    Travel Coordinator
    718-803-3782 ext:324
    Cindy Waters
    mom to Anthony, right c5, left c4 (24yo)
    injury march 2003

  2. #2
    Yea I've experienced it a few times at small airports. At the airport they have a big lift to get you in the plane. You transfer over to an uncomfortable wheelchair that is narrow enough to go on the planes. Then, they strap you in and up you go. I think all airports have this or a similar transportation system.

  3. #3
    JUST CALLED CYRIL E. KING AIRPORT IN ST. THOMAS, THEY HAVE A LIFT THAT THEY BRING OUT TO THE PLANE, I NEVER KNEW THIS. IT DOES GO WHERE THEY BRING IN THE FOOD. Do they let someone on the lift with you so you don't lean over if you have no trunk control?
    Cindy Waters
    mom to Anthony, right c5, left c4 (24yo)
    injury march 2003

  4. #4
    Senior Member wtf's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    silver state
    good to know I've always wondered how people in wc's get on and off these planes at smaller airports.

  5. #5
    With a commuter sized plane you are on your own...they are not required to assist you if it is under a certain number of seats (30 sticks in my mind...I am not sure if that is the exact number). I have heard people report they had to crawl down the steps on those sized planes.

    On a full sized jet (737, etc.) we have had experiences with both riding down on the food truck (but where they take you then may be far from the terminal...this lift does not go all the way to the ground but only to loading dock height), and being "bumped up or down" the portable steps riding in the aisle chair. Scary, but doable. Be sure you are securely strapped in, and that they have sufficient help to maintain control. Recently we had the experience (within the USA) of them having a portable ramp (switchback) that we used at one airport without jetways. It was pretty easy in the aisle chair.

    According to Candy Harrington's website, they have a portable lift in St. Thomas:

    And yes, it is the airport, not the airline that would have this information.

    I know a lot of people on cruises use this service, but often all their slots are booked up by cruise ships, so you would have to inquire about availability:

    I have heard that the Dial-a-Ride service is not very reliable. Frequent van breakdowns are a problem.

    If he can transfer into a cab, and use a manual folding chair, that might be the easiest.

    Last edited by SCI-Nurse; 04-03-2009 at 07:04 PM.

  6. #6
    Senior Member ChipS's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Stone Creek, Ohio
    A little piece of advice: Tell your reservationist that you HAVE to have wc accomodations. Then, tell them again. For some reason, airlines have great difficulty getting this through thier ears. Some small airports have a ramp that they push you up on (after your in the aisle chair) to board the aircraft. Make sure you alert the gate personell that they need to make the appropriate accomodations. Its amazing how they can't find the ramp after all the other passengers have boarded.

    I had one incedent last year where I sat on the tarmac for a half-hour(everone else had boarded) while ground crews litterally had to dig the wc ramp out of an enormous snow mound. It appears that when removing snow from the runways, they decided to mound it around the wc ramp. (Akron-Canton airport). Very embarrassing, to say the least.

    I wish you well on your trip. Have fun!

  7. #7
    Only had to worry about it a few times when traveling with my rugby team. We had our equipment guy give us a piggy back ride down it was much faster.

    St. Thomas is nice we went there 2 yrs ago on our cruise. Toured with EE Tours and it was awesome
    C5-6 Feb 05

  8. #8
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    New Hampshire
    I've had a couple of experiences with small planes. Once i was put in an aisle chair and bumped up the stairs by a couple of flight attendents. The other time i was also put in an aisle chair but they brought out a ramp that attached to the plane and i was brought down it.

  9. #9
    Senior Member smokey's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Massachusetts, USA
    waters3, I had this experience in Curacao three times. On the tarmac and in my wheelchair I was popped into the empty container that brings the food to the aircraft. It was about 30ft. long, 10ft. wide and 10ft. high. I just popped my front wheels in and someone pushed the rear wheels up and was maybe a 6" lip but relatively flat. Once inside I put my brakes on and some airport guy held onto my chair. There is really no danger of falling out. A giant forklift or Lull telehandler then picked up the container and slowly inched along until the container was close to the aircraft. They positioned the container so it was at the same height as the aircraft door and I wheeled onto the jet. I was then transferred on to an aisle chair and taken down to my seat. That was pretty much the deal.

  10. #10
    I've done all of the above, also used an aisle chair into an affair that looked like a cherry picker. Sometimes you have to close your eyes and have faith (when they strap you up like Hannibal Lector, and carry you up the steps.)

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