Airport ‘air assist’ around the world

By Virginia Shannon
This item appears on page 15 of the January 2018 issue.

During a 5-week trip to the Middle and Far East, Aug. 10-Sept. 17, 2017, I traveled business class on several airlines.

My trip began when I drove from Naples to Ft. Myers, Florida, then flew American Airlines to Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, and on to London. (Flying from Raleigh kept me from having to deal with New York’s JFK Airport or La Guardia and was very pleasant.)

I am 92, and even though I can walk, I cannot stand for an hour in the Immigration line, so I use “air assist” at all airports, which is wonderful. Air assist is a complimentary service offered by American Airlines and its partner carriers.

If I’m going to a lounge at the airport, air assist staff take me there and then pick me up to take me to my flight. Depending on your condition, you could be picked up in either a wheelchair or by a motorized vehicle that holds other passengers.

When I arrive at the airport, it’s my responsibility to get to the ticket agent, but before I leave an airport, the staff helps me retrieve my baggage from the carousel and takes me outside to my transportation, which is usually a taxi or a shuttle. (I only tip for this service if the staff member has to transport me on a long or complicated route.)

Requesting air assist must be done at the time your ticket is purchased, and it will be available at each airport along the way. I’ve never been disappointed with the arrangements made for me, whether with American Airlines or any other oneworld ( alliance members.

This time, from London I flew with Etihad Airways to Abu Dhabi, UAE, and on to Cairo, Egypt, which has a lovely airport. Etihad has excellent 777s. From Cairo I flew Gulf Air to Bahrain, continuing to Dubai, which was very hot. In most places I stayed three or four days, but it was mainly for business. 

After five days I flew to Bangkok, Thailand, via Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific, another great airline. As this is a Hong Kong airline (along with Cathay Dragon, formerly Dragonair), they make stops in Hong Kong regardless of your destination.

Four days later I flew back to Hong Kong, where I stayed in Kowloon, visiting Stanley Market for a couple of hours. Hong Kong had gone through a strong hurricane the week before. Things had been cleaned up, but it was still a little muddy.

The next segment was on Cathay Dragon­ to Indonesia’s Bali, where I spent five days, then I went to Doha, Qatar, on Qatar Airways, a fine airline, before finally taking Qatar to Chicago.

Middle Eastern airlines and airports are very nice and make ours seem out of date. I was fortunate to fly mainly A350s and 777s, which are wonderful. The meals were good and the flight attendants, always kind. 

It was a very comfortable trip, my 38th around the world.


Naples, FL