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Best Airlines for Disabled Travel

By: Jennie Kermode - Updated: 21 May 2020 | 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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[Add a Comment]
I am not classed as disabled but I have a disability, I have to self catherterise and I find the toilets on planes too small, to do my proceedure, therefore I use the disabled toilet in the airport before I board the plane. Upto date the maximum flight I have been on is 4 hours. I am hoping to go to Dubai 2021and would like to know if the planes have a disabled toilet or are the toilets larger then the short flights, as I have to partly undress. You can imagine this is a worry for me .
ronsan - 21-May-20 @ 9:26 AM
Hello, I’m looking for help with flights from the UK to mainland Spain. I am not able to sit down at all due to lower back pain. I am able to walk about, stand up and manage the stairs without too much trouble and get on and off a bed on my own. I am registered disabled but can only seem to find information that’s says it will cost between 6 to 9 full price seats plus taxes and also a full priced seat for a companion. Any help or information would be greatly appreciated.
Dibber2000 - 31-Dec-19 @ 3:33 PM
I have mobility problems and use a wheel chair a lot. I can still stand and walk a few steps with help. I have always wanted to go to the Galapagos Island preferably partly on a cruise. I know it it is unsuitable for wheelchairs but the surrounding island are less rocky.I also understand that I could go on a cruise to appreciate the views and wildlife. My main concern I have is going to the toilet! I have very little warning that I need to go- instead I get a sudden feeling of urgency! I need to get to the toilet a.s.a.p. or I have an accident! Can anyone offer any kind of advice?
Nina - 6-Apr-19 @ 10:54 PM
Just flew Etihad from Heathrow to Abu Dhabi return. They were brilliant- put me in economy space at no extra cost and service from plane to baggage fantastic. Queuing for check on on return saw my crutches and long queue and whisked me to a desk where I was rapidly checked in and requirements dealt with, same at gate and security-first to board and settle - I did ring to organise economy space prior to departure but was no problem after a little Instagram post. Heathrow on the return however was a total shambles and appalling and degrading so husband ended up pushing me on a luggage trolley with our suitcase. Omniserve were diabolical and left several passengers distressed.
Spanner - 30-Mar-19 @ 8:44 AM
Took Iberia flight back fro Madrid. Caos at boarding and had to wait until priority clients boarded till lady and I could board ( accepted as assistance passengers ) this meant about 40 passengers so we had to cue with others. Made boarding difficult but on board staff were great and helpful. It used to be you boarded first and were seated when others boarded not so now it appears.
Nick - 22-Mar-19 @ 11:13 PM
Watch out for Singapore Airlines with who they allow to use the disabled loo.We paid extra for premium economy to be 5 steps away from the disabled loo.Our agent recommended the extra cost for the this reason, but the hostesses refused to let us use it saying it was only for business & first class passengers, & we should struggle way down the plane to the economy toilet.My partner is in a wheelchair but can walk a few steps so we objected & eventually after a night time row with staff, they eventually allowed us to use it, BUTwe had to warn them first so they could make sure business & first class didn't want it!! This was a long haul flight Singapore to Heathrow.We have always flown Singapore but because of the indignity of this experience, we now use Qantas. I did write to complain & they did reply saying they would give extra training to their on board staff.This happened in 2017, so the extra training for staff to help people with disabilities may perhaps now be in place?
cp - 7-Dec-18 @ 5:38 PM
You must get money from Easyjet. My mother travelled yesterday on EZY3246. She had an adult companion. She has serious deambulatory problems and I asked for special assistance. I also purchased an extra legroom seat in row 1E. When boarding the plane she was seated in row 8 (standard seat) At the arrivalat STN she had to wait for 25 minutes for assistance to disembark after the passengers had let the plane. The crew told her that theyground staff had "forgotten about her" .
Robert - 25-Oct-18 @ 10:22 AM
@Joe - most airlines offer disability assistance but you would have to find your flights and contact the airline directly before you book.
GH - 19-Jun-18 @ 2:15 PM
Hi I am desperate to go on holiday abroad . I am wheelchair bound unable to stand by myself. I want to fly from Manchester to Alicante. As anyone done this journey and which airline.and is it possible with my disability. I will need lift up into plane and isle chair and help transferring from isle chair to seat and same on return journey.
Joe - 15-Jun-18 @ 5:42 PM
My daughter needs the aisle chair to help get to her seat. Next year we want to take her to Hawaii. It states that is over 5 hour flight. My concern is the toilet. She wears pull ups. I put a pad down so if she has a accident. She is in her 30's. So she is full grown. Not sure what to do for the toilet. Any suggestions would be great. Thank-You from stressed out mom.
Deb - 23-Apr-18 @ 1:27 AM
Lisabet - Your Question:
Is it possible for a person in a moulded wheelchair to be accommodated on a long haul flight

Our Response:
You would have to check directly with the airline you are planning to fly with regarding this matter. Please also see link here, which will tell you more.
DisabledTravelAdvice - 8-Feb-18 @ 12:46 PM
Is it possible for a person in a moulded wheelchair to be accommodated on a long haul flight
Lisabet - 7-Feb-18 @ 5:10 AM
@ross m - I think it's a case of checking directly with the airline first what their facilities are before you book. Especially with regards to full body hoists etc and then pick what airline you feel can best accommodate your client.
MarkkT - 7-Dec-17 @ 10:08 AM
Hi, I'm try to organise flights from Scotland to New York. Would you be able to suggest any airlines or companies that would be more focused on the clients needs when travelling? There is very limited information on passengers with severely limiting disabilities traveling with the need of a full body hoist. Any information would be great, thanks
ross m - 6-Dec-17 @ 11:43 AM
@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
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