I’m no stranger to running. I’ve run consistently for the last seven years as a way to handle stress and get good exercise. It’s also when I do some of my best thinking.
On a recent business trip to a beautiful, suburban area outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I went out for a run. I’ve heard it said that the older you get, the fewer firsts you’ll have. Well, I’ve never injured myself running before. So, at mile 6.5 when I felt something *pop* in my right hip, I knew I was having a first.
Three hours later, I was in the Phoenixville hospital emergency room. Fortunately, there was no bone damage. Unfortunately, the soft tissue damage caused severe pain and significant loss of mobility.
At 6 feet 3 inches (roughly 191 cm), I’m taller than the average North American. When I fly, I buy the seats with extra leg room. On this particular trip, I had purchased exit row seats both directions. Now faced with a temporary disability, I knew I wouldn’t qualify for the exit row seats anymore.
On Saturday morning, I shuffled my way through the airport on crutches. It occurred to me then that air travel, in particular, has a significant issue centered on people with either acute or chronic mobility issues.
According to The Mobility Resource, more than 18 million people in the United States and Canada have chronic mobility issues.¹
Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States of America, said:
Complaining about a problem without proposing a solution is called whining.
It’s hard to board and deplane.
Airplane aisles are not very wide. It’s difficult to board and deplane on crutches or if you’re confined to a wheelchair. Air travel should be accessible to all, particularly those who have chronic mobility issues and often have difficulty traveling over long distances because of the tole it takes on the body.
Most airplanes have 4 to 6 doors. Those doors get opened and closed a lo pre- and post-flight. Yet only one door is used to get people on and off the plane.
Planes should be re-engineered with a special access door for people with acute and chronic mobility issues. That section of the plane — whether at the front or back — should have special seating specifically for people with these challenges. Like handicap-accessible buses, planes could be equipped with safety restraints for wheelchairs, seats with extra leg room for people in leg braces, and companion seating for caregivers traveling with mobility-challenged passengers.
It will take the concerted effort of the airlines and the manufacturers to make this happen. The combined salary and bonuses of the CEOs of the world’s top airlines would be a great start to paying for the cost of re-engineering.
What do you say Doug Parker, Oscar Munoz, Gary Kelly, and Ed Bastian? Ready to give up a little pocket change to make air travel more comfortable and accessible for a large segment of the population?
Incidentally, on this particular flight home I got seated in the row behind the exit row which has even less leg room than a regular “standard” row. The one time I really needed the extra leg room. . .