In this article, I will give you the best Tips for traveling with a wheelchair on airlines so you will be able to travel easily and comfortably without having any issues on the airport or on the plane.
Having a physical disability that makes you use a wheelchair to get to places should not stop you from traveling by plane. Air travel allows you to reach the desired destinations faster and more comfortably. If you avoided flying until now because you thought it is something difficult t
o achieve due to the fact that you use a wheelchair, you should know that there are ways to make this happen with ease. Just check out the following tips and pieces of advice and traveling with a wheelchair on airlines will be easier and safer than you ever imagined.
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Traveling with a wheelchair on airlines
Like I have mentioned, regular or temporary use of a wheelchair does not require you to give up flights abroad, and the airlines support and allow you to travel with wheelchairs, and if necessary, you can reach the seat on a plane with a wheelchair.
The airlines offer special narrow wheelchairs matching the narrow passages in the plane.
Make sure to announce the airline company that you will be traveling in a wheelchair
Once you have booked your flight, you must inform the airline of your need for a wheelchair. You will need to specify which wheelchairs you are using regularly and whether you plan to bring a wheelchair with you as a cargo. If you need a wheelchair to get to the seat on the plane, please note this.
It would be ideal to book your airplane ticket well in advance to your actual travel date. This will give you time to make all the required preparation and let the airline company know that you’ll be traveling in a wheelchair.
So, as soon as a travel experience can be seen on the horizon, start looking for airplane tickets and book them in an early manner. Once you get your ticket, let the airline ticket know with at least 24 hours prior to your departure that you’ll be having a wheelchair along.
The airline will ask you to specify whether you need a wheelchair for support only, a wheelchair with close help, a wheelchair to the opening of the plane or a wheelchair to the seat inside the plane.
Depending on the details you provide the airline is preparing.
It is important to know that every airport has a limited number of available wheelchairs, and if you do not make a reservation you may not be able to get the assistance you need.
The wheelchairs are divided into three types:
- Ordinary manual wheelchairs
- Motorized wheelchairs, including scooters, with wet batteries
- Motorized wheelchairs, including scooters, with dry batteries
Passengers traveling in chairs of the second type should check with the airline in advance, as leakage of the battery in flight may be dangerous.
The battery will be separated from the chair by airline employees and will be stored in a special tank.
The passenger will be required to be at the airport at least 3 hours before departure.
Most modern motorized wheelchairs have a safety battery, so they do not endanger the aircraft with any damage. However, it will be necessary to disconnect the contacts in order to prevent shortening.
The process may take time and therefore it will be necessary to board the plane early.
You may need to be taken to a special chair for boarding, and there may also be a delay in leaving the plane after landing until your wheelchair is available.
Upon arrival, the airlines are responsible for reconnecting the battery and making sure the chair is working well.
No problem with mobile scooters; The requirements for their batteries are the same as those for wheelchair batteries.
Arrival at airport and delivery of luggage
Wheelchairs will be flown as cargo. In some airports, you will have to hand over the wheelchair at the baggage deposit counter and continue to travel in the airport with a wheelchair belonging to the airport or the airline(usually you can use your wheelchair to the point of boarding, where you have to move to a special chair for the transition between the seats of the plane).
If you can walk short distances, ask for a seat close to the front doors.
Your wheelchair will be stored so that it will be available immediately upon landing.
It is likely that the airline will ask you to board the plane before the scheduled time for boarding, so you will have to be early in the airport.
However, you have the option not to board the plane earlier.
Ask to make sure that the wheelchair comes to you as soon as possible upon arrival at your destination.
Be sure to check the registry on your wheelchair to make sure that you get up for the right flight and come with you to your destination.
Airport wheelchairs are narrow, small chairs. They are built so that they can serve you in the plane. These chairs are hard to handle, you’ll need help – take that into consideration.
Arrive early at the airport
Airports are busy places and the check-in process can be quite difficult and lengthy, so it is highly advisable to arrive early at the airport. It is recommend being at the airport with 2 to 3 hours prior to your departure hour, so you will have sufficient time to get through all the check-in steps.
In order to get at the airport, you can ask someone to drop you off or get the help of an Accessible Taxi, which is specially made for people with disabilities.
Of course, if you have a car, you can always drive to the airport yourself, as long as you have nothing against leaving your car in the long-term parking section for the duration of your travel.
Have your ticket printed and ready or use the airline’s mobile app
To make the entire check-in process easier and more comfortable, print your ticket and have it in handy. Better yet, download and use the airline’s mobile app, if one is available, and scan your ticket’s QR code from the app.
This way, you won’t have to worry about printing your airplane ticket, misplacing it, or losing it. Many airline companies offer a free online check-in process in order to encourage people to use the apps and diminish the queues at the check-in offers in airports. Thus, you will manage to skip a few parts that are time-consuming.
Take only luggage you can carry
Checking in large luggage, or too many packages is a lengthy, difficult, and expensive process. So, if you want to be both cost and time-effective, be selective with the items you want to take along in your travel experience.
Do your best to have with you only luggage you can carry with ease, instead of having heavy luggage with you. This won’t only become a hustle for you as you will have to drag them along in and out of the airport, but the fees applied by airline companies for the transportation of luggage are rather high. Thus, keep that money in your pocket and choose to travel light and comfortable.
Be prepared for the TSA check
This is something that every airplane passenger must go through, for everybody’s safety.
As you approach the TSA check, take your backpack and place it on the special tray used for the scanning process.
Because you are in a wheelchair, the security agent will direct you to an area where you can be properly checked. Don’t worry about it, as this is part of the security routine. Just let the agents do their job as they were trained and don’t hesitate to let them know if you have any concerns.
How will the checking process unroll? A security agent will run a wand meant to detect any metals, will pat you down for any hidden objects, and will run a swab check to see if there are any chemicals on your wheelchair.
During the pat down process, you will be asked to lean down and to the sides, so that the checking process is completed according to the rules. Again, allow the agent to do his or her job and you’ll be on your way in no time.
Getting on the plane
After completing the TSA check, you will have to get to the appropriate boarding gate for your airplane.
Once you arrive at the gate and you can see the flight crew present there, then talk to them and let them know what you’ll be traveling in a wheelchair.
Also, make a request for a pre-board and a transfer seat once the airplane is ready to receive its passengers. This way, the crew will be able to make all the preparations needed for your safe boarding in a timely manner.
Make sure your wheelchair is properly prepared for the transfer
Because you will be transferred from your everyday wheelchair in a special chair inside the plane during the flight, you need to make sure that your wheelchair is ready to make the journey in safety.
First of all, if you have a screen, joystick, or both installed on your wheelchair, it would be advisable to remove them. If you can’t remove them, make sure you pack along some bubble wrap, which can be placed over the screen and joystick to prevent any unwanted damages.
Also, we recommend taking off the headrest as well, out of the same reasons. If the wheelchair is in a more compact form, it will be easier and safe to transfer it.
If you have a cushion on your wheelchair, have it with you on the airplane, especially if your journey will be longer.
It is important to be able to sit comfortably throughout your entire flight. Of course, also take along any transfer belts or anything else you may need during the transfer.
Every person with disabilities has his or her own needs, strengths, and abilities, so you know best what is needed to make such processes smooth and easy.
I hope that you found my tips for traveling with a wheelchair on airlines useful.
I wish you a life full of great travels and experiences.
If you have any additional tips, recommended airline company etc, please write them below.
Hi, my name is Eddie, I am a professional trainer specializing in the elderly population and I’m also a website designer. I love training in the gym, going to the beach, traveling, and having good food.
I combined my love for sport and website designing to make “DisabilitEase” whose purpose is to help elderly and disabled people live a more full and active life, have more fun, and enjoy their unique journey despite any disability.