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?
- 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.
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.