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Jill's Travel Blog

Getting Around US Airports On Crutches

March 18, 2015

Accidents can and do happen, but it’s hard to stop the pace of one’s life ‐ even when it lands you in crutches temporarily. I had such fortune myself, and the company I worked for at the time thought the best thing to do was to send me on a gaggle of business trips in my semi-mobile state. Today I’ll share with you what I’ve learned in order to help make your travel planning easier.

First, let’s talk about airports. Pretty much all US commercial airports offer a wheelchair service free of charge for handicapped passengers. However, some airports, such as Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) use electric carts as their primary means to get the handicapped around. Take my word; you want to request a wheelchair when you book your ticket. The carts are terrible, they all go to different places and it’s difficult to find the one you need. Not to mention there is no set schedule and you can be stuck waiting quite a long time for it to arrive. In my experience the people pushing the wheelchairs are really nice, and will usually even wheel you up to anyplace along the way to grab food. If they’ve earned it, it’s totally customary to give them a tip. Wheelchairs are generally picked up at the ticketing counter at check in.

Since you get the wheelchairs at check-in, if you can’t walk, then you’ll need to go through security with them. The TSA has a procedure for this where they will swab your hands, your brace, and your chair to check for explosives residue. Normally this is not an issue. However, I did have one occasion at security in Denver where apparently I was reading high for nitroglycerin ‐ a key ingredient for explosives. I knew something was up when they started asking me questions about what I did for a living and running my bag through x-ray several more times. Finally a supervisor came over and asked if I had been using lotion. At that point, I had been on crutches for several weeks and built up some impressive callouses so the answer was a definite yes. Turns out that the hotel lotion I had been using was the culprit, and that it’s not terribly uncommon for nitroglycerin to be included in the formulation! Luckily, they did let me through and I was able to catch my flight.

So fellow travelers, the moral of this story is to book a wheelchair in advance, avoid Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) airport, and bring your own lotion!