Published On: December 6, 2023

luggage with words traveling for the holidays this year? Tips for travel when using a wheelchair

blog submitted by Brandon Scott, Content Creation Manager, Easterseals Crossroads

Here we are, the busiest travel time of the year. We all know that traveling during the holidays can be stressful and air travel (especially for wheelchair users) can be even more stressful. As a power wheelchair user, who has done a lot of traveling, I have experienced those stressful moments of having to repair my chair in the airport terminal because it was returned to me in pieces. I have also had great experiences with airlines that utilize special equipment to handle my power wheelchair with care. To avoid many of the travel hassles, it’s essential to plan ahead to ensure as smooth and stress-free journey as possible. Here are a few valuable tips that have helped me confidently navigate the skies.

Research and Book Wheelchair-Accessible Flights

Start by researching airlines that are known for their accessibility services. Many airlines have specific policies and procedures for passengers with disabilities. Consider reaching out to the airline’s customer service team to discuss your specific needs and request assistance if required.

Notify the Airline in Advance

When booking your flight, inform the airline of your wheelchair and any additional mobility aids you’ll be bringing. This allows them to make necessary arrangements, such as reserving a spot for your wheelchair in the cargo hold.

Prepare Your Wheelchair for Travel

  • Label Your Wheelchair: Clearly label your wheelchair with your contact information in case it needs to be identified or located.
  • Secure Loose Parts: Secure any removable parts to prevent them from getting lost during transport. I always make sure to at least carry on my chair’s seat cushion, because I know that it will likely become separated from my chair.

Arrive Early and Communicate Your Needs

Arrive at the airport well in advance to allow time for check-in and security procedures. Communicate your needs to airline staff and be specific about the level of assistance you require.

Utilize Airport Assistance Services

Many airports offer specialized assistance services for passengers with disabilities. These services may include wheelchair assistance, escort through security and priority boarding. Take advantage of these services to make your journey more comfortable.

Consider an Aisle Chair for Boarding

If your wheelchair cannot be accommodated in the aircraft cabin, request an aisle chair for boarding. This narrow chair is designed to help passengers with mobility challenges navigate the narrow aisles of the plane.

Know Your Rights and Regulations

Familiarize yourself with the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) in the United States or similar regulations in other countries. These laws protect the rights of passengers with disabilities and outline the responsibilities of airlines.

Bring Essential Supplies

Pack essential items such as extra batteries, chargers and any necessary medical supplies. It’s also a good idea to carry a basic toolkit in case minor adjustments are needed.

Stay Informed and Stay Patient

Flight schedules and accessibility procedures can change, so stay informed about any updates or changes. Additionally, be patient and understanding with airline staff and fellow passengers. A positive attitude goes a long way in ensuring a pleasant travel experience.

Flying with a wheelchair can be less difficult with proper planning and communication. By following these tips and being proactive in your preparations, you can embark on your journey more confidently and enjoy the freedom of travel. Safe travels!