Those who know me in person, will know that I am not a keen flier. Those who don’t know me at all, let me introduce myself. I am DeafGirly and you can mostly find me on Twitter and over on my blog – DeafinitelyGirly.com writing about the stuff I get up to in London and more recently, the Middle East (but more on that later). For now, let’s talk about flying.
The thing about having a husband who lives in the Middle East is that it requires a bit more planning than when you live in the same flat in London. It also requires a bit more flying! Until last year, I had never flown long-haul by myself and now all of a sudden, aged 37, I was commuting on an eight-hour flight.
I’ve had my fair share of panics on planes and while the great ‘Let me off this plane’ of 2006 as the jets were firing up at the start of runway, was something of a rarity, I’d be lying if I said I was one of those people who sat down and went to sleep before the plane had even left the stand.
A lot of the things that make flying stressful for me can be linked back to my deafness. While there are lots of visual clues to help you on your journey from check-in to baggage collection, a lot of what happens is audible. So here are five things I do to help reduce the stress of travelling as a deaf person.
- Uber to the airport
I used to always take the Piccadilly line to Heathrow but after a couple of near misses where we were waiting in a stopped tube train with only the tinny, inaudible announcements for company and my timeframe for check-in fast reducing, I am now a fully fledged Uber convert. Yes, it’s more than the cost of a tube ticket, but I can order it from an app on my phone, it turns up at my door and just like that I’m at the airport, ready to fly.
- Plan ahead for security
Apparently, those scanning machines make a beeping sound as you walk through them. I found this out in America after being hauled backwards when I failed to stop after making the machine go off. And so, I set myself the challenge to dress in a way that couldn’t possibly make the beep go off. No jewellery, nothing in pockets, no metal on trousers, no belt. The list goes on, but it’s 100% worth it for getting through security beep free. Oh, and I still always tell them I am deaf and can’t hear the beep. They’re nicer that way and it makes you look less shifty, which is always a good thing around security!
- Stalk your gate number
My anxiety around flying means I always end up airside well before the gate number is announced. So that means, even though I wander around the shops, grab a coffee from the café, I am never more than two metres away from a screen with my flight on. Download the app of the airline you’re flying with, too. When I fly from Terminal 5, British Airways sends me app alerts when the gate is announced, which is great.
- Make boarding a priority
While my long-haul commute is currently helping me gain the privilege points at British Airways, I don’t need them for Priority Boarding. As an anxious flyer and avid rule follower, nothing used to stress me out more than trying to work out what the boarding crew were saying at the gate as I tried to join the right queue to get on the plane. Now I just ask them if I can have Priority Boarding due to my deafness and no one has said no yet.
- Tell the crew
I remember when I was about 22, I was travelling with a budget airline to the Netherlands to see my brother. It was a bit of a bumpy flight and at one point the captain came on the tannoy and began talking and talking and talking. I had no idea what he was saying but my head made up all sorts of terrible scenarios until, much to the alarm of the man next to me, I burst into tears.
Now, much older and wiser, I always tell the crew that I am deaf – and sometimes add “And a very nervous flier” – and I ask them to tell me any important announcements. It just adds that extra level of reassurance to my mind. I’d also advise looking at the faces of fellow passengers while announcements are being made. If they’re not panicking, you don’t need to.
Bon voyage peeps!