Preparing Your Wheelchair for Air Travel
It is important that you take careful steps before your flight to prepare your wheelchair for travel. Thousands of people who use wheelchairs are passengers on airplanes every day. Airlines have policies in place pertaining to helping passengers with disabilities; however, it is still a good idea to take precautionary measures leading up to your flight as a wheelchair-user to ensure the safety of yourself and your wheelchair.
First, airlines require that people who use wheelchairs and need extra time getting on the plane must arrive two to three hours before their flight departs. Additionally, when you check in at the gate, tell the employees that you will need an aisle chair on the plane.
An aisle chair is how you will get on the plane if you cannot walk. When going through security/TSA, you will stay in your own wheelchair and go through a special line for wheelchair-users. You will have to get physically patted down by a TSA agent if you cannot stand up. You have the right to request a private area for this security measure, if you would like.
Once you are at the gate, there will be a trained staff member with an aisle chair who will help you transfer, if needed. After you are in the aisle chair, you will be rolled onto the plane and brought to your seat, where you will then complete a transfer into your assigned seat. You will be the first passenger to get on the plane.
Meanwhile, your personal wheelchair will be stored under the plane with the rest of the luggage. However, your wheelchair will be the first item to be taken out of the airplane upon landing. Airport staff knows to bring wheelchairs to the gate as soon as possible once they have been unloaded. You’ll have to remain in your seat on the plane until your wheelchair is unloaded and brought to the gate. Usually, you are the last one off the plane. In this process, patience is key.
Sometimes, airlines will damage wheelchairs during travel. Although this is rare, there are certain steps you can take to prevent this from happening. Here are some tips to prevent your wheelchair from being damaged:
1. If you use a manual wheelchair, ask if you can keep it in the aircraft cabin. Although you cannot store a powerchair in the cabin because power wheelchairs are too large, there is sometimes room for a manual wheelchair to be stored in the closet of the airplane.
2. Before they take your wheelchair into the cargo hold, take everything off of the wheelchair that could be lost. This includes your wheelchair cushion, armrests, foot rests, side rests, wheelchair bags, cup holders, and anything else that might fall off your wheelchair when it is transferred in and out of the plane.
3. If you use a power wheelchair, tape laminated instructions on your wheelchair telling airport baggage workers how to safely handle your wheelchair. These instructions can be incredibly helpful because airline employees do not always know how to operate a wheelchair, especially pertaining to the right places to lift the chair without causing damage.
Lastly, any medical equipment that you checked, such as a shower chairs, walkers, or other large medical equipment, will be near the luggage carousel by the door where “special luggage” (strollers, golf clubs, etc.) are placed for pick-up.
For more air travel information for passengers who use wheelchairs, visit:
– Watch: The Adventure before Flying – the wheelchair aisle chair transfer with The Pushy Lawyer
– Watch: TRAVELLING ON A PLANE WITH A POWER CHAIR – Wheelie Good Tips EP #27