The Air Travel Guide for Wheelchair Users

To better welcome visitors of all abilities, destinations are implementing smoother curb cuts, wheelchair-accessible attractions, and accessible transportation.

Nevertheless, despite these cultural modifications, wheelchair users still face a challenge: how can we get to these locations without risking harm to our wheelchairs during the flight? About the average number of 29 wheelchairs are damaged by airlines every day. And those in wheelchairs worry about this.

However, there are some precautions you can take to safeguard yourself and your chair, and to ease any tension or discomfort you may have while flying. The top eight suggestions for flying in a wheelchair are provided below.

  • Call the flight carrier

Call the airline immediately as soon as you’ve made your flight reservation. Give them your confirmation number, let them know when you are travelling, and let them know you will be taking your wheelchair. To prevent problems when you get to the airport, let them know the specifics of your chair, like its height, weight, length, and breadth. You must inform them if your wheelchair has a wet, dry, or gel cell battery if you have one. Inform the airline of any additional requirements, such as whether you require an aisle chair to board the aircraft or assistance getting to your seat.

  • Show up early

It is recommended that all passengers arrive at the airport roughly three hours before an international trip and two hours before a domestic flight. But you should arrive much sooner if you’re using a wheelchair. It can take longer to pass through security with a metal chair. Additionally, it might take longer if you need to search through or check bags containing medical supplies or medications.

  • Verify the details on your tags a second time

Make sure the information on your tag corresponds with the information for your destination after requesting a gate check label for your wheelchair. You definitely don’t want to end yourself on opposite sides of the country from your chair!

  • Label the chair

Even though it’s unlikely that your wheelchair will disappear or become unattached from its tags, it’s always a good idea to have a fallback. Choose a safe location on your chair so the label won’t get ripped off. After that, apply a second tag, sticker, or piece of tape to that spot. Your name and phone number should be included. You could also put your destination here if the tag is readily removed.

  • Look for wheelchair resources nearby where you’re going

Inform your local provider that you are departing before you travel. If your wheelchair should become misplaced or break while travelling, they should be able to provide you with the name and phone number of someone who can help you.

  • Ask whether there is a pre-boarding option available

Certain airlines provide this service for passengers who might require more time to find their seats and settle in. It never hurts to inquire if this is something you can use. The fact that the attendants had more time to set up your chair in the cargo area will be appreciated by both of you and them.

  • Please include further information regarding parking and keeping your power chair

Put your thoughts on paper and tape it to the chair. Describe how to park and store your vehicle safely using the brakes. Include instructions on how to release the chair’s brakes and allow it to “freewheel” so that the attendants can push it.

  • Keep any detachable wheelchair components

Remove any components of your wheelchair that you do not want the airline or ground workers to damage once you are at the jet door and prepared to board. Even though it is advised that you take off your headrest and knee supports, some wheelchairs also feature a joystick that you may separate from the wheelchair. Take that out.

Carry the cushion onboard the plane and set it in your seat. Bring a tote bag to store these components in. The flight attendants are always pleased to help you hang your spare parts in the aircraft’s closet so they are secure during the flight. By taking them out before boarding, they may enjoy the flight in the most relaxed manner possible and worry less about potential damage.

  • Fill a bag with goods for rapid fixes

Always have a few “quick fix” materials in your backpack. In the event that your wheelchair sustains minor damage during the flight, zip ties and duct tape can be used to make a rapid repair. Pack bubble wrap, masking tape, and a plastic bag so you can seal the joystick by enclosing it in the bubble wrap, covering it with the bag in case it rains when you get to your location, and then sealing the bag shut. If the aisle chair’s straps are insufficient to make you feel secure or if additional “harnesses” are required throughout your journey, a variety of velcro strips in various lengths can also be useful. If you find it difficult to drink without straws, pack some in your carry-on bag since most airlines no longer provide them.

  • Buy a sling or a lift

You might wish to get a sling with handles to put underneath you if you can’t help with transfers. This will enable airport workers to assist you into your aeroplane seat in the best possible manner without uncomfortable handling. Choosing a transfer sling that works best for you is crucial because everyone’s needs are unique.

  • Consider your bathroom needs

It might be really difficult to use the restroom when flying. The restrooms on aeroplanes are relatively small, and there isn’t much room to manoeuvre if you need to transfer onto the toilet. Even worse than that, there just isn’t enough room for the extra people if you are unable to move and require full assistance. Only a few alternatives are available to wheelchair users until the day when all aeroplanes are fully accessible.

Become dehydrated the day before your flight. If it helps, eat fewer meals and lighter fare the day before taking off. Just in case, always travel with a brief on you. Men’s condom catheters or a urinal jug used at your seat while draped in a blanket are some possibilities that might be suitable for you. Wheelchair users have no other options due to the inaccessibility of aeroplane facilities, even if none of these is acceptable. It’s critical to prepare in advance.

  • Before leaving the airport, report any chair damage

Always check your wheelchair to determine if there has been any damage during the flight after it has been delivered to you once you have arrived at your location. Inform the airport staff right away if there are any problems. Continue down to the baggage claim area and ask for a Complaint Resolution Official (CRO) once they file a report at the gate. You can register a report of damage with the CRO, and you’ll get a claim reference number in return. Although the airline might offer to fix your damages, be aware that they might not be finished as soon as you require.

Although travelling in a wheelchair might present some difficulties, being prepared and aware of your rights can help to lessen the stress. Additionally, you can be your own best advocate for the things you want and need out of your travel experience.

It’s not difficult to travel in a wheelchair, and it can even be fun. As you practice more, you’ll be able to improve your strategy for ensuring that the transitions go as smoothly as possible. This advice is merely a place to begin. Make a note of your own observations and advice to keep in mind the next time you travel. Every circumstance and place are different.


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