Tag Archives: special assistance

Special assistance vs. free ride

This morning, at Cairo airport I found something I hadn’t seen since 2007 when I went to Moscow sometimes: passion for wheelchairs.

During the last week in Egypt, Luca and I have seen just 2 wheelchairs (in fact, she saw 2, I can only recall having seen one at Giza).

How many thousands of people we may have seen during this week? 1,000, 2,000, 10,000? No idea. But having been all day in the streets, museums, temples, etc., where there were crowds, I guess they were many. Let me use 2-3 thousands for simplification.

I know, this may be not a statistically relevant sample, but let me say there is a user of wheelchair per 1,000 inhabitants (there may be published stats on this out there; I didn’t check).

As you know, airline companies offer special assistance to get on board their aircraft. Yesterday, we found at the boarding gate 10 wheelchairs. We flew aboard a B777-200 with no more than 50-60% seats occupied, about 200-250 passengers. That is, 4-5% of passengers required special assistance in the form of a wheelchair.

As, I said, these are not statistically relevant samples, but these numbers bring to me some (provocative) thoughts:

  • At the airport we found 50 times more wheelchairs than in the outside world! That is what I call passion for them.
  • What is it so attractive in wheelchairs at airports? It’s a free ride (some body actually pushes it!), you get to avoid long queues and board first
  • Why don’t they all use wheelchair outside the airport? Nobody pushes it! The fact that streets and facilities are not adequately prepared might be a deterrent as well (just for people who can walk despite some difficulty).
  • It could happen that those flying are not the ones we found in touristic places and streets in Egypt… however, the factor of 50 is strikingly high to be explained only because of that, plus it would be strange for them to venture taking international flights and not wandering through the city.

Having said that, I’m totally in favour that this special assistance is provided because there will always be people who do need it. I wrote this post just out of surprise of seeing a queue of 10 wheelchairs, something I hadn’t seen in 3 years.


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