Thoughts from Guest Blog Contributor, Jennifer Brown
A few months ago, I had a great privilege to travel to Montréal for the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association 2019 National conference. During my time I have met so many interesting individuals with a different background in hearing loss and got to present alongside two other participants in how we could build our community with our Hard of Hearing identity. Along with the conference, I was able to explore the city of Montréal and admire the architectures and enjoy some of the food along with experiencing some of their nightlife. It was a big change with me being from a smaller town on the east coast but I enjoyed my time. I also took the opportunity to travel over to Toronto to visit a friend of mine, never had any troubles and took the chance to relax.
After about two weeks; it was time for me to head on home to the east coast. I got up in the morning to complete my check in advance so I wouldn’t have to worry about paying for my luggage at the airport, all I had to do was drop my bag off and go to my gate. When I got the tickets a few months before the conference; I had made it clear that I have a hearing loss and a note was made on my ticket. I thought things would run smoothly but alas, it did not. I arrived at the drop off baggage around 40 to 45 minutes before my boarding time; all I had to do was drop it off and go through security. It was luckily during one of their slower times so I wasn’t faced with huge noise barriers. I was excited to go home however I met with probably one of the brutal customer services that I had to experience. This individual had told me that they would not let me on the flight because I was not there 90 minutes prior and the door has been closed. Keep in mind that I was getting on a domestic flight, baggage drop off times were 45 minutes before the boarding time. My time was being wasted when they kept directing me over to the ticketing department, by this point, my anxiety has been growing and my meds were packed away inside my luggage and I thought that I was alone so here I was; getting very panicky trying to explain my situation. There were 20 minutes left and the baggage had closed. I finally got to talk to another employee who saw how distressed I was getting – I showed her my receipt and my tickets which showed that everything was paid for and done so in advance. She was confused as to why I was not let on the plane when I showed up, even when it was during a slow period. She gave me an option where I could leave my luggage behind and board the plane immediately; however, I was told they rarely suggest this as an option. It was not an ideal situation. I was directed over to ticketing once again where I can get on the later flight for approximately $75. As a broke university student; I was wary about the price, but I was willing to pay that price for a ticket home.
As I’m waiting to be seen, my friend’s dad was still at the airport and saw how distressed I was, immediately he went to advocate on my behalf which I was very grateful for because I was not in the right mindset to fight. I was already drained from trying to get onto my current flight. We got up in front and met with the clerk who we explained the situation to; they said they understood my situation and went to see what they could do to help – they turned around and told me that I could get on the next flight out for $900, that is DOUBLE than what I paid to get to Toronto in the first place. As a student who is very limited on funds; I nearly just lost it on the cost and said that I’m missing my flight simply because I’m being sent all over the departure area. An hour had passed and it was getting busier as rush hour was approaching; it was getting harder to hear what the clerk has to say and I was just mentally exhausted from everything that was happening. My friend’s dad demanded that we see someone in charge which who they brought out, after talking to the manager, my friend’s dad had mentioned that I have hearing loss and that it was getting harder for me to understand what was happening. There was a change in how the manager was acting, they told me that if they had known that I have a hearing loss; they would have done something about it but for the last hour that I had spent – they kept stressing the fact that because I was on a basic ticket, I missed the time, so, therefore, I couldn’t get on my flight but we kept pushing the fact that because of one of their employees; I missed my time. What does having a hearing loss have anything to do with my current situation? How does that even change anything when I was missing my flight because of their staff. All I wanted was a ticket to go home, not to pay $900 for a flight they made me miss. They finally decided to give my ticket for the flight the next day – after a solid 2 hours of anxiety and anger; a sense of relief sounded as I finally get to go home. I was drained both mentally and emotionally.
Here is a tip for my fellow hard of hearing people who travel; do not be afraid to stand up for yourself but to avoid getting into any situation like this – arrive at the airport early to allow you some time to avoid any miscommunication. Make it clear that you have a hearing loss and for the most part, the service agents will do their best to help. If you do happen to find yourself in an unfair position like myself; keep pushing and don’t give up.