Air Travel for Wheel Chair Users

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 out of seats.

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