Saturday, January 04, 2014

Handling Special Need Passenger

I was a young passenger handling officer with KLM at the airport in the swinging 80s.  I was on duty to meet a special need passenger who was on wheelchair and breathing on an oxygen apparatus at the transit. He was flying in from Australia onboard Qantas and to re-board on our flight to Europe via Amsterdam. Between the incoming Qantas flight and our outbound flight, there were few hours in transit for him.  Then we have only one terminal at Changi Airport and the boarding gates between the two airlines was one end at the east wing to the other end at the west wing.  

When he was pushed out from Qantas' arrival gate, I took over.  He had a big breathing apparatus on him and he was totally immoblised but can still sit instead of lying flat down.  He was not the usual wheelchair passengers that we used to handle.  Admittedly, this was my first experience handling such special need passenger and I was not even first aid trained.  I thought my job was just to push him to the boarding gate and it should not pose any big problem.  He was quite a friendly chap and I remember I was chatting merrily with him. There was no rush as we had few hours of transit time.  Then in the midst of it, he told me he needed to use the toilet.  I did not think much of it and very quickly, I pushed him to the handicap toilet.  I then carried him onto the water closet. Assuming he should know what to do next and I then walked out.  He called out for me again.  He said he needed my help to pull his pants down.  Oh no, I thought to myself then.  Biting my tongue, I then helped to pull his pants down.  I told him I will wait for him outside.  When he was done, I had to flush for him and of course, pulled up his pants.  All the while, I was holding my breath for the longest time and not looking anywhere.  Carrying him was easy but I had to be very careful not to mess up his breathing apparatus.

When it was time for his re-boarding, I pushed him to the aircraft and together with the crew helped to secure him on a row of seats which was converted into bed for him with the breathing apparatus installed next to him.  I heaved a big sigh of relief that he was safely onboard and on the way home.

Thank you for flying with KLM and we are here to serve you, regardless of who you are or where you come from.

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