This blog provides encouragement to people who are beginning training, returning to training, going through physical therapy, or recovering from injury. I'm not selling anything here, I just like giving, and getting, encouragement!

Tricks to making flying on Southwest Airlines easier


If you've ever flown on Southwest Airlines, you know that it's a mess. I know that they're doing the best they can, but the crowding, for someone like me with a bad ankle, is just awful. I've gotten much better since the first time I flew, four years ago, using the disability services. At first I was in a wheelchair, and year after year I worked to achieve more mobility. I really don't need a wheelchair anymore, or disability services, but I need some tricks to get me on the plane. Luckily, it just takes some observation of how people behave, and what they want. I'm a big believer in the phrase "find out what everyone else is doing, and then don't do it", and I can apply that to getting on a Southwest Airlines plane. Here are the tricks:

• Check in on your phone as early as possible. If your flight is, for example, at 9:15 the next morning, set an alarm on your phone to check in at 9:16. That will get you on the first group to board. You may be number 25, but you'll be A-25. And being in the A group means that you will have a better choice of seats.

• Stand at the end of the line. I don't mean that you should be the last person on the plane (that's a mistake!), but if your boarding pass says A-15, go stand behind the person who is A-29. There's no reason for me to squeeze in-between people and their bags, and it just seems courteous for me to stand at the end of the line. People don't know that I have a bad ankle, they just think I'm being gracious. Everyone, and I mean everyone, wants to be as close to the front of the line as possible, so this one is easy.

• Don't ever use the overhead bins. I check in a bag (which is free) and carry on a small backpack, which I keep at my feet. The competition for the overhead bins on a Southwest Airlines plane is brutal, and I need to avoid it entirely. That's the very best trick!

Sit in the back of the plane. I love this trick. As soon as I can pass the people struggling with the overhead bins, I stroll to the "aft" part of the plane. Most people don't want to sit there, as it takes longer to get off of the plane when you land. So I sit behind the wings, and have plenty of room, and plenty of choices to sit.

• Sit next to a window. Once you're settled in, you won't have to move for the entire flight. By the way, I don't use the restrooms on the plane, so I always make sure to make a stop at the airport to "go". With my bad ankle, getting up and turning and twisting to use the plane restroom is just out of the question, so I watch my water intake before the flight, and I can hold my bladder for the duration of the flight (a little over an hour to Los Angeles).

• Wait for other people to exit the plane. Again, this is human nature, but most people are desperately struggling to get out of the plane. Letting them go ahead of me just seem gracious. When they're gone, I have more room, and walk easier. I fiddle with my phone, or nibble on some peanuts. I'm in the back of the plane, so I can see when it's clearing up, which goes pretty fast.

My situation is now marginal for my ability to walk. I certainly don't need a wheelchair, or disability services, but I need tricks.
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