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Air Travel for Wheel Chair Users

By: Jonathan Webb - Updated: 10 May 2017 | comments*Discuss
Disabled Air Travel Wheelchairs Holiday

Being disabled should not be a barrier to air travel and holidays. The important thing is to plan ahead and let the airline, travel agent or tour operator know what type of assistance you will require at the airport or on the plane. Try and give the airline as much notice as possible so they are able to arrange to have the appropriate staff in position for your journey. Booking as far in advance as possible will also save you money as advance fares are usually considerably cheaper.

If you are undertaking a particularly long journey ,and are unable to walk to and from the toilet, it is essential that you ensure that you book an aisle seat. It is also worth researching, bearing in mind how tiny airline toilets can be, if the plane's toilet has a privacy curtain.

Many international routes make use of wide bodied jets. It is worth checking to confirm that the plane has a wide enough aisle for the use of an aisle chair to get you around the plane. An aisle seat is usually very narrow with a bolt upright back and useful for transporting you to the toilet etc. Some routes may well only use wide bodied planes on some of their services over the same route so, if possible, try and book on one of these, especially if you want to make use of an aisle chair.

Wheelchairs and other mobility aids are usually unloaded first from the aircraft once it reaches its destination. These items will be returned to the passenger as soon as is practically possible and as near to the aircraft's door as regulations permit.

Carrying Wheelchairs

The carrying of electric wheelchairs is allowed and airlines divide them into two distinct types. An electric wheelchair will be classed as a dangerous material on account of its battery being considered a hazard. A wheelchair powered by a battery that could spill must have the batteries entirely removed in circumstances where the chair will be upright for the entire journey and attached to the chair. Batteries that cannot spill, however, do not have to be removed from the chair unless it is believed that the battery has suffered damage and leakage is a possibility.

Some, usually larger airlines are often able to carry passengers in stretchers, although you will have to fly with supervision .This also often entails the purchase of additional seats(typically between 6 and 9) to make up for the airline's loss of seating on the flight.

At The Airport

Even if you are normally independent you may need help at the airport because of the long distances involved. To get to the gate it may be necessary to use a wheelchair or buggy. Airlines must carry your mobility equipment free of charge but some airlines are not required to compensate you in full if it is lost or damaged, so consider separate insurance cover .Also check how many pieces of mobility equipment you will be allowed to take with you as many airlines only allow 1 wheelchair per plane.

Health and safety legislation can prohibit passengers from taking their own wheelchair in the passenger cabin and this will be put in the hold. The point at which you have to change chairs will vary from airport to airport and the type of passenger boarding equipment used.

In some cases an airline may request that a companion accompanies a passenger,in order to provide assistance during the journey. To travel alone you should be capable of moving from a passenger seat to an onboard wheelchair, as cabin crew are prohibited from lifting passengers in and outof seats.

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I had a bad experience at Amsterdam airport. They confiscated my electric wheelchair at check in and made my son push me in a manual wheelchair instead because of "security". They seemed unable to understand the pain (no suspension or padding on their chair and the dimensions were incorrect for me), inconvenience, humiliation and degradation of having my lifeline whisked away from me.
CC - 10-May-17 @ 7:15 PM
I have heard conflicting reports, I am travelling for the first time with my manual wheelchair. Should I deflate the tyres before it is loaded into the hold of the aircraft (due to pressure at altitude)? Thank you in advance
C27 - 2-May-17 @ 4:10 PM
I'd just like to warn electric wheelchair users about security at Beijing airport, a nightmare as on my way home from Australia to the UK (in January '17) they wanted to confiscate my powerchair battery and would not allow me to unscrew the expensive chair-specific battery boxto remove the cheap generic batteries for them to confiscate. My carrier, Air China, didn't tell me about this before I took my chair overseas. Security may have been easier to go through if I'd had some or other battery power certificate from the airline, I never figured out exactly what they wanted and the airline had no idea either.
JG - 25-Apr-17 @ 10:57 PM
My brother is in a wheelchair and his wheel chair is 30 inches wide and he is trying to get on a plane from puerto rico to new jersey but we cannot find a plane that has an aisle thats 3p inches wide is there anyway that there will be able to find a plane that has a aisle thats 30 inches wide and what will the cost be
jazzy - 26-Mar-17 @ 7:26 PM
HI, Do you have any information about disability facilities on direct flights from India to London. I am essentially looking for flights that have wheel chair friendly toilets. I have tried to research this on the internet but not getting much luck. I am aware that BA purports to have wheel chair accessible toilets on their flights from India to the UK can you kindly confirm this? Are you aware of any other flights that may be accessible? Thanking you in anticipation. Regards, Rishi
Rishi - 20-Feb-17 @ 1:25 PM
Traveljunky- Your Question:
Hi I would like to take my daughter and son on holiday this year. My daughter is permanently in her wheelchair so I can't transfer her on a planes seat. What is our best destination to go to and airline to use. We are on a tight budget so a reasonable price range would be great. Thanks looking forward to your reply Traveljunky

Our Response:
I'm afraid we cannot recommend specific companies, but there are plenty to choose frm online. Also, there are sites such as Trip Advisor that may be able to help you assess others' opinions regarding where and where not to go. We hope you enjoy.
DisabledTravelAdvice - 6-Feb-17 @ 2:39 PM
Hi I would like to take my daughter and son on holiday this year. My daughter is permanently in her wheelchair so I can't transfer her on a planes seat. What is our best destination to go toand airline to use. We are on a tight budget so a reasonable price range would be great. Thanks looking forward to your reply Traveljunky
Traveljunky - 4-Feb-17 @ 7:46 PM
Do airlines re:Delta airlines, charge or offer free seats to escorts for disabled passages? If they do, does itinclude international travel re: Europe Italy for example. I am from Canada and it is offeredhere but only on in Canada flights. Any advice would be helpful.
winpub - 26-Dec-15 @ 4:36 PM
My brother in law is severly disabled and has an electric wheelchair, he carn't sit in a normal chair but has moulds made for him to sit in to suit his complex body shape, what is the best way for him to travel as he carn't sit in a normal chair, he could lie down with padding and support or he could sit in his chair or moulds on the plane, is this at all possible as we would all love to go to Florida as a family,. Thanks Chris
Chris - 5-Sep-15 @ 9:10 PM
I am attempting a visit to Gothenburg (or other Swedish) university for a group of disabled students.There will be a few in wheelchairs, is there any way we can travel together?
rmd - 8-Apr-14 @ 3:16 PM
My wife and I are looking to fly to San Francisco and though I can walk with a cane from the plane door to my seat, I use a mobility scooter for longer distances. I would be unable to walk from Check-in to Departure. What would be the best Airline to use or would it be easier to hire a Scooter at our destination?
Maxie - 23-Jan-14 @ 5:10 PM
my wife and i would like to go to Melbourne Austrailia to visit her uncle who is now 91 and in a home. as my wife suffers from MS and is now wheelchair bound any tips on what airline ect. would be best suited we will be travelling from glasgow with possably 2 stopovers both ways
carmyle - 4-Feb-13 @ 2:35 PM
Allright talking about Air travel what about ferry travel, Have been on ferries when on/off loading, either at various ports or final port, where reluckting too decliare to being disabled been forced to spend time in everending queuing, when offloading, or being forced to stand listening to emergency poceedures. Used to travel in on my own vehicle, unable to let down lift, could walk a short distance, but stairs, standing short time really caused me major problem. Single person so no one that I could call apon to give help. Alfr
Alf - 19-May-12 @ 3:15 PM
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