One thing you should do to have a better airport experience

When summer rolls around the corner, travel season picks up as people take time off work to relax and rejuvenate. Relaxing is far from the mind of some hard of hearing or deaf people who navigate the airport either by themselves or with a companion.

You did everything right. You showed up at the airport three hours in advance. You breezed through security. You arrived at your gate early and are now waiting for boarding. You decided to keep yourself occupied by people-watching, reading a book or browsing on social media using your smartphone. People slowly start to fill your gate, and it looks like you should be boarding soon. Unbeknown to you, your gate changed. A new destination and flight number has appeared on the screen. You have no fighting chance to make your way through the crowd to speak to the attendant checking passports and boarding people to a destination you have never heard of before.

You run over to check the nearest large screen with all the latest flight departures and gates. Only to find that your new gate is farther and currently boarding. You don’t remember the last time you had to move as fast as you did.

You wondered how it made no difference to you showing up 3 hours early. It feels like you just arrived at the airport as you run past the slow-moving crowds. When you finally arrived at the gate. You quickly handed over your passport and boarding pass to board. The agent reprimands you for not responding to them after calling your name over the PA system numerous times. If only they knew you couldn’t hear.

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Experiences like this aren’t a one-off for many people with hearing loss. It can be a constant airport experience that can really make you feel anxious setting foot into the airport again.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Most airports these days have an app or a way for you to receive digital real-time notifications. For some, it’s an app to download on your phone. Before you start dismissing the idea of another app on your phone, it doesn’t have to be on our phones permanently. It is much like a temporary buddy that you can use to help navigate any airport you land. Especially when accents and language barriers are much more prominent with hearing loss. When you check in online, take an extra step to connect to the airport(s) you will be in.

The other option is having the airport send you a notification about specific flights. Before your trip to the airport, you can request online for the airport to send you specific notifications about the flight to your phone. It can be a flight update message in an SMS or an email. This is different from the flight updates directly from your airline. My experience is that the airport will have the most up-to-date and quick to send a message because they are managing the traffic of people and planes.

If you are not travelling internationally and you want to keep your phone on airplane mode to avoid roaming charges. The email option will be best; you can connect to the WiFi at any airport for free to access your email.

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If you can’t find any option for getting flight updates via the airline or the airport, you should request accessibility services. Clearly state that you need up-to-date information on your flight and a signal when to board the plane. Otherwise, you might find a wheelchair waiting for you.

Staying in the loop of any airport activity is one way to calm your nerves. It will assist in having information come to you instead of dealing with all the inaccessible communication happening around you.

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