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Air Travel Tips for Power Wheelchairs

Air Travel Tips for Power Wheelchairs

Being restricted to a power wheelchair doesn’t equal to restrictions in lifestyle and recreation. Airline travel is one of many activities that, with a little preparation, can be accomplished in spite of a mobility aid. Here is some advice to make airline travel with power chairs or mobility scooters go as smoothly as possible.

Planning Preparations
Before deciding on an airline to fly with, shop around for the best ticket prices and the airlines with the most accommodating policies for travelers in power chairs. Each airline should be able to tell the customer whether the weight of a particular model of electric scooter or wheelchair falls under the limits. Handicapped customers may also want to inquire about the accessibility of restrooms on the plane as bathrooms on many passenger jets are difficult for disabled persons to use.

Also, it is very important to know how to disconnect the power from the batteries when you get to the aircraft. Locate that cable and mark each half of the connector with yellow tape. Practice separating and reconnecting the connectors. This may keep them from pulling your batteries out of the chair.

Ticket Reservations
When reserving airline tickets, handicapped buyers should tell their agent that they will be using a power wheelchair so that airline staff will be prepared to assist them when they get to the airport. Upon arrival, airline employees will be ready to quickly check the disabled person’s power wheelchair before helping them get seated on the plane. The airline may provide a folding wheelchair to help squeeze through the narrow airplane aisle.

Another reason handicapped customers should tell their ticket agent about their disability scooter is to account for the plane’s total weight limits. If one arrives for a flight without having arranged for a power wheelchair to be transported as well, flight attendants may be forced to refuse the disability scooter on the grounds that it would cause the plane to surpass its specified weight limit.

For maximum ease of access, disabled customers may want to purchase a first class ticket if they can afford it and make it worth the investment. Some passengers in power chairs may find the extra space in business class more convenient.

Preventing Damage
To prevent damage when flying, attach disassemble/reassemble instructions to the power wheelchair as certain pieces may need to be taken apart for easier transportation. Also, provide a note for baggage handlers politely telling them to treat it carefully as your power wheelchair is essentially your legs. You can also take a picture of it before flight so you’ll have proof of its pre-flight condition.

Assistance at Layovers
If one speaks to an airline ahead of time, it may be possible to arrange for employees experienced with power wheelchair users to offer assistance at any layovers on one’s itinerary. This is often valuable because, due to the size of many modern international airports, it can be difficult for individuals using power chairs to get from one gate to another distant one in time for a connecting flight.

Transportation at the Destination
To reduce stress as much as possible after arrival at the destination, passengers may wish arrange transportation ahead of time. To save the most money, one may want to take advantage of public transportation if it is available. If taxis are an option, passengers can arrange ahead of time to have a convenient cab company pick them up so they don’t have to rush at their destination to find a taxi equipped for customers in power chairs. Finally, many companies offer specialized transport for disabled travelers, including disability scooter users.

Clearly, adult users of electric scooters and wheelchairs don\’t have any significant reason to forgo air travel. By taking these steps to prepare a trip beforehand, any flight is sure to go smoothly from start to finish.

15 Comments

  1. Callie – I have not discovered this fantastic little traveling. Wheelchair that you put in your comment , but I am very interested, please send me info on how to obtain this info. Thank you very much. Bunny

    • The wheelchair I use that folds and weights under 50lbs is called a portashopper – it folds and goes in my trunk
      I ordered it from Austrailia and the US equivalent of it would be called the Smart Chair

  2. These portable power wheelchairs work well with ease of removable battery (half the weight) and folding. If you have special needs seating, they are not comfortable as special designed seating for folks who have no trunk control and use laterals. We’re debating a trip to Vegas, possibly using side pillows for support?…Happy travel in what ever you decide!

    • Honestly, I think the right amount and type of pillows is the best solution. I find sand filled pillows soothing for the back and the neck, particularly for longer trips (over 3 hours). Good travels!

  3. My wife and I live in our grandmother’s basement. We are going on a vacation, and we thought it would be fun to take her with us. I appreciated this article, especially your tip to provide a note for baggage handlers politely telling them to treat her stuff carefully since her power wheelchair is essential for her legs. Thanks for sharing this.

  4. Savvy suggestions – I Appreciate the information . Does anyone know if my business could obtain a fillable a form form to use ?

  5. Can anyone provide an estimate of how much they might charge for bringing your wheel chair? Thanks.

    • wheelchairtraveling.com

      Great question! The answer is nothing. You cannot be charge for medical equipment, especially a wheelchair.

  6. If you can’t walk, how does one climb the stairs to board the plane? I weigh 350 so no one is going to be able to carry me on.

    • wheelchairtraveling.com

      They have lifts they can use. Even if you weight 120 pounds, carrying a person up stairs is not safe. I have also seen electric stair climbers. It is best to be 100% with the airline you book and be firm that they have a plan in place for you.

  7. I’m a little person & in a electric wheelchair & can’t walk, how would a person like me fly? I know about the chair that brings you to your seat (I used it before I got to bad off) but what if you can’t get out of your chair is there a way of staying in it while you fly? like on the city bus that have tie downs to hold your chair. I know the smaller planes don’t but wasn’t sure if any of the big ones had something like that. Thanks

    • Henry, in what area are you traveling or consider traveling? That mostly depends on the airline and the duration of the flight.

  8. My husband is a quadriplegic and cannot sit unassisted. Do any airlines allow a person to remain in their Chair? He could not tolerate a normal seat even in first class.

  9. Robin, each airline company has its own policies. That is not a rule, but big airlines usually offer more services than small ones. It depends on what your locally operating airlines are: are you in the US? Europe? Australia?

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