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Best Airlines for Disabled Travel

By: Jennie Kermode - Updated: 2 Nov 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Airline Disability Disabled Flight

These days, when you're flying, there's more choice than ever. You'll find lots of different offers from companies trying to tempt you to use their services. But which companies over the best service for disabled people, and what hidden costs should you be aware of that may make your final bill higher than that of your fellow passengers?

Recommended Airlines

  • Air Canada - This airline provides a great all-round service including support within the airport and assistance on board. They'll check on you regularly to make sure you're okay. On most flights, extra seating is available at no extra cost if you need it because of your disability. Service animals are allowed provided they can sit at your feet without protruding into the aisle.
  • Continental Airlines - Your best bet if you're flying to or via America, this airline offer special seating arrangements and onboard assistance, including help for those with mobility problems whether or not they use wheelchairs. They welcome service animals and even have a special onboard kennel to make them more comfortable. Psychiatric support animals are included in this.
  • EasyJet - The best of the budget airlines, EasyJet can arrange assistance to get you to your plane and can lift you up any steps in a carry chair if necessary. Some support is available onboard but there are no aisle wheelchairs. Safety instructions are provided separately for visually impaired and hearing impaired passengers. Service animals can only travel on domestic flights.
  • Quantas - Possibly the best all round disability service comes from Quantas, who provide full support from the moment you arrive at the airport, can lift you in and out of your seat if needed, and will arrange early boarding. Service animals are welcome and, if you need a carer, both of you will be able to travel at a reduced rate.
  • Virgin Atlantic - This airline provides a thorough support service for visually impaired and hearing impaired passengers and passengers with mental disabilities who choose to travel alone. There's limited but still useful support for mobility impaired people, with spacious adapted toilets on longer flights. Service animals are welcome to travel in the cabin on most major routes.

Booking your Flight

When you book your flight, you will usually need to give at least 48 hours' notice to enable the airline to organise any additional services required because of your disability. This means that last minute booking can be a bad idea, even if you're looking for cheap deals.

Upon booking, let the airline know about your special needs and get their confirmation that they can support you. In some cases you may need a medical certificate of fitness to travel (your doctor can provide this). Any service animal you take with you will need to be certificated and travel under the PETS scheme on international flights.

Hidden Costs

Make sure you clarify exactly what the airline you choose will provide for you as standard. Some airlines have reportedly demanded extra money for services like helping disabled passengers through the airport. This is not standard practice and you should not accept it, but you will always be in a stronger position if you check before you travel.

If you need extra space where you are seated onboard, you'll find that some airlines provide it for free whilst others require you to book an additional seat. There are also airlines which will offer to let you use a second seat for free but then withdraw the offer if the plane fills up, which can leave you in trouble. Make sure you are clear on what the deal is.

Although it's still more complicated than flying as an able-bodied person, flying with a disability is easier than it has ever been. If you choose the right airline you'll find the staff courteous and understanding and your trip should be problem-free.

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@Loopy - yes, I always used to do this flight when visiting a friend in Italy. I loved the BA flight, a very different experience from the Ryan Air and Easy Jet experiences. Although Easy Jet was luxury in comparison to the Ryan Air flights, where there is not much in the way of compassion.
Selby - 3-Nov-17 @ 9:55 AM
Flew back from Bologna airport in August 2017, The British Airways staff were polite and courteous and immediately noticed my discomfort. Called for a wheelchair, took me through passport control and customs quickly and smoothly with my partner and straight onto the plane. Can not recommend them highly enough. Every person that dealt with us was respectful and courteous. Well done Bologna !
Loopy - 2-Nov-17 @ 2:07 PM
This is a great site and source for information. I too am a disabled senior and find travelling a challenge at times. Most airports in the USA accommodate my needs without issue. My problem is with the Pearson airport also known as the Toronto Airport. The assistance is inconsistent and the staff of one of the major airlines lacks decorum. The staff need more training on how to manage disabled passengers. For the most part, we are appreciative of any assistance provided but would like to be treated with respect and not as someone whom they consider as a burden. This is their job and us as paying passengers, supply their salary. Airlines and airports should be aware we are growing in numbers. We are living longer. Our families for one reason or another do not live near us so we must travel to them if we want to remain connected. My only grandchildren live in another country. I try and visit them at least twice a year during the school year. They live closer in the summer and often visit Canada at that time making summer visits more frequent. I want to see them grow up. I want to continue to see them but unless improvements are made for the assistance provided to people in my position it will become more of a challenge. Keeping my fingers crossed, we The Baby Boomers will finally get the airline's attention and they will continue to make improvements in their services which will allow us to remain connected with our loved ones.
pkullo - 13-Oct-17 @ 9:20 PM
Recently, I travelled to Stockholm by Lufthansa.I must say that assistance provided in the airports are flawless, however, I cannot say the same for onboard assistance. During the flight LH 0760 when my wife asked for onboard wheelchair, the flight attendance caught unaware of its existence. Later on, although it was detected, the attendances denied any help and they asked my wife to take me to the washroom by her own. You must agree with me that it is an impossible task for a person to maneuver the wheelchair through the narrow aisle. I had to hold my bladder and relived myself at New Delhi Airport. This is indeed an horrible experience and it is clear that you have no respect on human dignity.
sajal - 30-Jul-17 @ 3:49 PM
@Jackie - Much depends upon the individual holiday organisers. Some company's are aimed specifically at helping those who are visually impaired. It might be better to choose a company such as TravelEyes that have hotels etc that are equipped to make life easier.
MonicaV - 7-Jul-17 @ 1:55 PM
I am registered blind can you tell me what help I would receive once I land at my holiday resort and getting tomy hotel , once there can I get help back to the airport ,help to get on the plane and ant the airport once home thanks Jackie
Jackie - 30-Jun-17 @ 2:46 PM
I would like to know of any airlines that can helpmy husband had no use of his left side after a stroke we would like to know if you could get him on to a plane and if we could bring his electric wheelchair chairand would you be able to sit comfortable and get him off the other end
Fatty - 31-May-17 @ 9:40 PM
Mcplop - Your Question:
My husband has a fused knee and is 6ft 6. Would he have to pay for 3 seats on the plane and would he have to pay full price being disabled.

Our Response:
You would have to ask the airline direct regarding this question.
DisabledTravelAdvice - 15-May-17 @ 1:54 PM
My husband has a fused knee and is 6ft 6. Would he have to pay for 3 seats on the plane and would he have to pay full price being disabled.
Mcplop - 14-May-17 @ 7:44 PM
This is an account of the stressful and disappointing experience I had at Manchester airport, on May 10th 2017. Flight MT1201.I am disabled, suffering from several chronic conditions including Osteoarthritis, Fibromyalgia, ME/CFS as well as other medical conditions, This means I find flying very difficult, even when it runs smoothly. I was travelling with my sister, who is able bodied, but over 60 years of age. She booked the holiday for a treat for my birthday & had booked wheelchair assistance for me, on both the outward and inward journeys to and from Ibiza. I took my mobility scooter with me. I have been away on holiday on several previous occasions, flying to and from Manchester, so I am well aware of the procedure, when wheelchair assistance has been requested. The outward journey ran smoothly, we got all the assistance I needed and expected, although it took them a while to locate my scooter at Ibizaairport.However, on out return journey, things did NOT go to plan and the whole experience completely ruined my holiday.The flight from Ibiza MT1201, was delayed for around an hour. During the flight, an elderly man was taken ill, so when we arrived at Manchester, all passengers were asked to remain seated until paramedics had assessed the situation etc. This was understandable. Eventually the rest of the passengers were allowed to disembark, but as usual, those of us requiring wheelchair assistance were asked to wait for the Assistance to arrive. There were 5 of us. We waited, and waited and waited...... the emergency services had requested a carry on/off chair for their patient and when we saw the lady with the high viz jacket, bringing that one particular wheelchair we felt hopeful, but she explained that she only had that one. One member of cabin staff had phoned through and requested the assistance for 5 people. The lady said she was sorry but she had only been asked to bring that one, for the poorly man. She said she would try & find wheelchairs for the rest of us. Eventually just one arrived, which was taken by another passenger, leaving 4 of us still on the plane. 3 of those people decided they could walk, with their sticks, but there is no way I can walk so far.By this time the cleaners had arrived and were busy getting the place ready for the next flight. Only one member of the cabin crew remained and she was anxious to get the situation sorted. The paramedics were still on the plane with their patient. Eventually a wheelchair was found, around 30 minutes later, but as there wereno wheelchair assistant personnel available, my sister was asked to push it (this wasn't a problem at this stage). By the time we reached the baggage collection area, it was totally deserted! On previous occasions the wheelchair assistance people have found my scooter (or wheelchair) and brought it to me, before making sure we'd had the appropriate hep, but there wasn't a soul around the baggage area to ask! Our 2 suitcases were the only o
Justanne - 13-May-17 @ 5:25 PM
SWISS Airlines is HORRIBLE for disabled individuals. They treat persons with Autism very poorly - from kicking them off flights (as per the news) to making it clear that they will be forced to move seats in favour of "more important persons" such as their elite frequent flyers.
otissito - 14-Apr-17 @ 8:11 PM
HI, Do you have any information about disability facilities on direct flights from India to London. I am essentially looking for fights 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 @ 11:40 AM
I have taken my folding disability scooter on aircraft for several holidays including flying with Ryanair.We have booked flights to Malaga with Ryanair in May next year and they are now saying that I can only take one battery with me as the total permitted wattage is 300 watts.I have two batteries in my scooter at 259 watts each.Taking only one battery severely restricts my mobility whilst on holiday.Has anyone else encountered this problem and is this rule now applied with other airlines?
Disabled traveller - 15-Dec-16 @ 3:48 PM
I'm hearing and speech impaired. I want to get for ID card for traveling.
Allan - 5-Dec-16 @ 6:31 PM
just heard back from ryan air they wont allow him to use extra leg room seats because hes got restricted mobility yet he can walk on crutches what a joke
mallrat762003 - 22-Nov-16 @ 11:16 AM
i want to take my son abroad his leg cant bend at the knee properly so needs extra leg room but most wont let disabled people sit in the extra leg room seats ???
mallrat762003 - 21-Nov-16 @ 6:14 PM
My husband has had two knee replacements within a year and required extra leg space because he is unable to sit comfortably. I was shocked to find out we needed to pay extra.
Rosie - 1-Aug-16 @ 6:44 PM
kara66 - Your Question:
Mid-December I flew from Hamburg (Germany) to Phoenix (USA). Of course I needed to take my electric wheelchair with me. British Airways made this and the return one month later a great experience. Two e-mails were enough that they boarded my wheelchair, I got a free seat next to me (although I had not asked for it) and a flight attendant checked on me every hour. And all that at no extra cost. they even opened my food. No need to ask. Great and very dedicated staff. Extremely friendly. I can really recommend British Airways for oversea flights.They even managed to make me feel human again. Thank you for that! It was a six star trip.

Our Response:
It's always nice to have people commend good customer service. We're glad you enjoyed the trip.
DisabledTravelAdvice - 28-Jul-16 @ 9:57 AM
Mid-December I flew from Hamburg (Germany) to Phoenix (USA). Of course I needed to take my electric wheelchair with me. British Airways made this and the return one month later a great experience. Two e-mails were enough that they boarded my wheelchair, I got a free seat next to me (although I had not asked for it) and a flight attendant checked on me every hour. And all that at no extra cost. they even opened my food. No need to ask. Great and very dedicated staff. Extremely friendly. I can really recommend British Airways for oversea flights.They even managed to make me feel human again. Thank you for that! It was a six star trip.
kara66 - 27-Jul-16 @ 12:49 AM
My family and I were very excited to be going on a cruise around the Caribbean. It was an extra special holiday because it was the first we had taken since I'd become disabled and was permanently dependant upon a motorised wheelchair. We had been so thorough with booking and making sure facilities were available and suitable so that I didn't have to worry but also so my family didn't have to. We were flying from England to Miami with AA so it was a nine hour flight. Everybody at the airport was great and we were boarded early with no hitches. The plane took off and the stewardess covering our section of the plane was a little frosty to say the least, she was dealing with an issue with the man sitting next to me and when they had finished I asked her what the procedure was for using the aisle wheelchair to get to the toilet and she very casually said "oh we haven't got one on this flight" she couldn't understand why I couldn't accept this and told me that the toilet was only six steps from my seat and surely I could walk that far! That was then the end of discussion so I had to sit for nine hours too scared to have a drink in case I needed the loo. Needless to say on the flight home I wouldn't get on the plane until the air hostess had assured me they had a fully functioning aisle wheelchair. To be fair to AA the staff on the return journey were fantastic and couldn't be more helpful. A word of warning, make sure you check before you get on the plane they have facilities that work!
wheelie26 - 23-Oct-15 @ 9:11 PM
flying thru Chicago O'Hare to Dayton ohio on American. Flight from lhr is finnair
parrott - 2-Sep-15 @ 9:36 PM
I always get a letter from my doctor to fly with my medications, including syringes and needles but I have passed through B'ham airport on a number of occasions and no one is interested, I suppose if I didnt bother that would be the time I get stopped. I actually wanted to let people know that I am flying to Barcelona with Ryanair and I heard somewhere that you can actually take another bag with you up to 5kilos in weight containing your medication and other needs so I contacted Ryanair who agreed this is correct but I have to get a letter from them which they will email to me in advance of the flight. I dont know for sure if this is the same with all carriers I would presume so but its certainly useful to me as before I was including my medication in my hand luggage
tortoise*123 - 16-Aug-15 @ 8:17 AM
I would love to have a holiday abroad with my family. My son has special needs and uses a powered wheelchair. My husband is his carer. I suffer from arthritis and use a powered wheelchair. My daughter is my carer. We would also have my daughter's partner with us. My right leg must remain elevated. All and any advice welcomed. Thank you Teresa
mum - 21-Jul-15 @ 2:51 PM
@Jackie - I have included a CAB link here. However, it seems that no free air travel, the assistance and benefits you will recieve are more with regards to physical assistance, rather than financial.
DisabledTravelAdvice - 1-Jul-15 @ 12:49 PM
I am a 78 year-old disabled lady (arthritis of spine, knees, shoulders, hips) unable to walk without a walking aid (rollator) and will require to have my carer with me. We are wanting to go to Adelaide (Australia) from London later on this year and I wonder if there are any airlines that provide reduced fares with extra space for the disabled for the passenger and the carer on these long-haul flights.Where can I get details of this information please.
Jackie - 28-Jun-15 @ 6:54 PM
Hi all not sure if you are aware but both Newquay Cornwalland Norwich Airports have been operating the Aviramp (wheelchair ramp for aircraft) this summer. They are the first airports in the UK to implement the equipmentIts a pretty civilised way of boarding aircraft rather than being taken away on an Ambulift
Graylad - 11-Sep-14 @ 5:40 AM
Last comment should have read 5 star all the way :)
madmoms2 - 15-Sep-13 @ 7:31 PM
I would like to congratulate Monack Airlines and Birmingham Airport OCS Lts for their very high standard in looking after their Disabled Passengers. My friend has arrved back from Rome and the care he received from both of the above was second to none, he could not have had better service any where Thank You both you do an excellent job.
Trishia - 8-Sep-13 @ 12:12 PM
I dont understand how my travel scooter (folds in the boot of my car) is fine to go on airplanes in there hold but the coaches wont carry it when you transfer to your resort/hotel, I have recently been on a cruise and the shuttle buses (coaches) will carry it to the local town etc ????????
craftyrhi - 19-Apr-13 @ 4:30 PM
I have Grand Mal Temporal Lobe Epilepsy-it is well controlled but due to the Brain Injury I suffered I have great difficulty retaining information,also it has made me incontinent,I have promised myself to go on a fligth,before my condition gets worse.I have also had four spinal operations,sometimes I cannot walk all that far.I need to know if I book a flight with any major company,have they got people and facilitiesthat can help me.The main Airports I`m thinking of flying from are Cardiff or Bristol,if the needs be Heathrow. I should also had I have a Ventricular valve in my skull,so that will show up on the X-Ray machine,and due to the scarring on my brain Iget `ICE-PICK` headaches ,as if somebody is ramming an icepick into my skull,its a very sharp,sudden pain which lasts about 3-4 seconds,then its gone. Can anyone tell me ,if I would be allowed to fly?
oystercatcher - 15-Mar-13 @ 12:16 AM
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