Being a disabled person already has challenges when you have to move about frequently; it might seem like an arduous task. However, most people who use wheelchairs are poised to know how they can also have a pleasant time traveling the world as people without a disability do. After all, it can be intimidating, especially because wheelchairs are an essential part of your daily life. By being proactive with your travel plans, you can have a memorable time flying!
Let your body’s needs become your priority
The duration of a flight is the first factor to consider when booking a trip abroad. This is crucial if you have difficulty shifting your weight in your seat or getting up to use the restroom. In addition, some flights have few seats on board that enable passengers in wheelchairs to travel to the airplane bathroom, and some individuals may not feel comfortable attempting it. As a result, you should always strive to avoid flights that last more than eight hours.
Plan your budget for a direct flight
The next thing to look into is direct vs. indirect solutions. A trip with a connection or two may be less expensive, but they frequently have small gaps between landing and flight. In addition, when using assistance, it usually takes more time to get off an airplane. To prevent missing a connection and causing additional stress, as an alternative, you may look into booking direct flights whenever possible, even if they are more expensive.
Plan mobility aids based on airplane size
The next factor is the kind of airplane you will be flying on, especially if you have substantial equipment such as a scooter or motorized wheelchair. This is crucial if your equipment does not fold or break down into smaller pieces. All equipment is kept in the airplane’s cargo hold and must fit through the cargo door.
Choose an aisle seat whenever possible
Finally, consider your seat placement on the plane. When booking, try to select an aisle seat. This change can be made at the airport, but it’s one less thing to worry about if you can make it ahead of time.
Arrival tips and checking in your wheelchair
We recommend arriving at the airport 1.5-2 hours before the planned departure time for domestic flights and 3 hours before the scheduled departure time for international flights. Typically, there is no “top of the line” shortcut for disabled travelers. Medical equipment is sometimes tagged at check-in, although it is often done at the gate. If the medical equipment is motorized, they will inquire what type of battery it has whenever it is tagged. It’s not an issue if it’s dry or gel. If the battery is wet, they will need to remove it and put it in a sealed container for the flight duration. They will also want to know if the equipment will be “gate-checked,” which means that it will be used until just before the flight.
General Tips for flying with a Wheelchair
Speak with the airline and TSA
TSA Cares, the Transportation Security Administration’s passenger assistance service, is a brilliant idea to check out as soon as you book your travel. TSA Cares is available to help disabled travelers fly with a wheelchair or medical equipment. In addition, they will be able to assist you with any inquiries or problems with the security lines.
Next, contact your airline’s disabilities service section. If they don’t have a specific department for you, their customer service department should be able to assist you. For example, they might ask about your chair, including its size and weight, to determine how best to stow it during your trip. Because of the size and capacity differences, a manual wheelchair is often simpler to store than a power wheelchair.
Pack a sufficient amount of your medical supplies
Having a spinal cord injury or another ailment usually demands the use of medical supplies such as catheters, incontinence supplies, or even ostomy goods regularly. Pack enough daily supplies to last you the whole journey, plus a few additional days in case of delays. Also, bring an extra supply in your carry-on if your checked luggage is damaged or misplaced.
Know your rights
It’s essential to understand your rights as a disabled traveler flying in a wheelchair. First, visit the US Department of Transportation’s Aviation Consumer Protection page for persons flying with disabilities. This website explains how the airline will work with you and provides information on The Air Carrier Act (ACAA), a policy that protects disabled travelers traveling with adapted equipment.
Make an emergency repair kit
It’s a good idea to put together a small kit for any wheelchair repairs that may be required while you’re on the trip.
We advise including the following items in your kit:
- Allen wrenches are used to tighten the screws on your wheelchair
- Duct tape
- To safeguard your chair throughout the flight, wrap it with bubble wrap
- Screws for replacement
- Your wheelchair’s instruction manual
Attach the manual to your wheelchair when handed over to the staff—plan on bringing the rest of your gear with you on your flight.
Prepare your wheelchair for your flight
You know how simple it is to prepare if you’ve ever used a manual wheelchair since you remove the wheels and fold it. Frequently, airline attendants will store it in a closet on the plane.
A power wheelchair, on the other hand, needs a bit more care due to the large number of components required for optimal functioning.
Alternatively, you might make an appointment for your wheelchair mobility company’s Adaptive Technology Technician (ATP) to visit your home and prepare your wheelchair for travel.
If your wheelchair is damaged or broken, the airline will pay for repairs or replacement. In addition, all airlines should comply with the Department of Transportation’s and the Air Carrier Act’s standards.