Variations in gate-check policies I encountered on the trip; all flights were on Northwest/KLM.
DEN-DTW – no problem; got a gate check tag at the gate, gate checked the chair, it was returned to me at the plane in Detroit.
DTW-CDG – same. The arrival gate was a bus gate; the purser arranged a lift off the plane prior to arrival, my chair was immediately available.
CDG-AMS – I was unable to print out boarding passes ahead of time, so I had to check in with KLM. The ticket agent wanted to a) check my wheelchair through to Denver, and b) take it right there. I maintained that I needed my own wheelchair for the 2.5 hour layover in Amsterdam (not to mention my connection in Memphis). I repeated this several times, and removed several DEN luggage tags he attached to the chair. I was unable to prevail on him to let me gate-check the chair, even though he had also attached a pink tag that said “Gate Check” on the chair as well. He showed me a skinny box into which my chair would be packed. I pointed out that my chair doesn’t fold and wouldn’t fit in the skinny box. Airline employees, in my presence (because I wouldn’t leave) attempted several times to fold the chair into the box, but were, of course, unsuccussful. Eventually they shrink-wrapped it. Weird. I was trundled through security and to the gate in an aisle chair and left at the gate with no means of transport until boarding. Annoying. Once on board, I asked the purser to be sure that my chair was available in Amsterdam, and he agreed and it was.
AMS-MEM – KLM personnel in Amsterdam were extremely helpful and matter of fact and gate checked the chair. In Memphis, I was told that I must use an airport wheelchair and pusher until I was through customs, and then my own chair would be delivered to me at baggage claim. Annoying, and not in line with my previous experience re-entering the US.
MEM-DEN – no problems at either end.
The irritating news was the inability to gate check in Paris, and the need to reclaim my chair at baggage claim in the US.
The good news was the chair survived 5 legs without damage.