Spinal-Injury.net : Holiday Guide - Disabled Flying Guide


Flying Tips:  
When making airline reservations

Consult your doctor about: Your need for immunisations
To ensure that you have all the prescriptions you will need for the duration of your trip (and some spare for emergencies)
All the medical equipment you might need, and any spare parts you might need in an emergency.
Recommendations for any non-prescription medications you might need such as pain killers, sun lotion, laxatives, spare glasses etc.
How to get medical assistance when you are away. Contact addresses for nearby hospitals etc., emergency telephone numbers and quality of health care in the country you are visiting.

Consult your travel agent about:
What special assistance you can expect from the hotel, tour group, transportation company etc. you intend to use while you are way.
What sort of accommodations will be needed throughout your trip, be it, car rental or organizing seating on planes, coaches, cruises
Whether any special dietary needs will be sufficiently met at hotels/restaurants at your chosen destination.
Whether the hotel you intend to stay at has toilets suited to disabled travellers.
If you are renting a car, we strongly recommend that you call ahead and check that a hands control car will be available if you need that.  If you are hiring a car and someone else is driving ensure you can transport your chair too
Try and make sure you reserve the type of car you need as soon as you know your date of arrival to prevent disappointment..

As a general rule, try and book as much as possible before you leave, so that you can make sure that they accommodate your various needs, or so that they can make the relevant preparations to accommodate your requirements.

In short, advanced preparation can save you a lot of time and effort in the long run. It is far easier to deal with any problems from home, than in a foreign country where you may have to deal with language barriers.

Flying with a Wheelchair:
Wheelchair users should make sure that their chair is in full working order and have a maintenance check in advance of the trip. Likewise, ensure that you have basic tools and parts for the assembly and repair of your wheelchair, in the event that something goes wrong.  If you use a powered wheelchair in addition to taking the charger with you check that it will work in he country you are taking it to.  A typical British 240v battery charger will not work on 110v mains as in the USA.  Your charger may be dual voltage and able to switch to 110v if not you will need a step up transformer to convert 110v into 240v so you can charge your chair while away.  It works the same way for visitors from 110v countries to those with 240v mains, except you'll need a step down transformer.

Do not assume that you will readily be able to access wheelchair parts in other countries to fit your own type of chair either, better to take a spare and not need it, than need it and not have it.

1. Make your reservation as far in advance as possible.

2. Tell the reservations person that you will be travelling with a wheelchair or scooter.

3. Inform them if you need assistance in boarding (an aisle chair to get to your seat, see picture below)

4. If it is a long flight and you are able to use a standard plane toilet but are unable to walk to the toilet ask that they make an aisle chair available to you during the flight. Some airplanes have a privacy curtain that includes the aisle that would allow a companion to assist you. But keep in mind that airplane toilets are very small.  It is well worth considering catheterisation and/or conveen drainage into a leg bag for these longer journeys

5. On newer and refurbished wide body jets (the ones with two aisles) there is one accessible toilet.  It is large enough to fit the aisle chair inside so making it possible to transfer to the toilet. These planes generally carry an aisle chair, but it is a good idea to confirm that one will be on board.

6. Always confirm that they have a record of your requests 48 hours prior to departure.

7. Some of the newer planes have lift up arms on some of the aisles. You can request to be seated there if they are available. It makes transferring easier. Some passengers prefer to request bulkhead seats that have more legroom, but the air rests on these seats do not lift up.

Aisle Chairs:
NOTE: An aisle chair is a narrow straight back chair with wheels underneath. It is designed to fit down the aisle of an airplane and is used to assist passengers that cannot walk.  These chairs are very narrow as can be seen in the picture.  It may take several people to help you transfer to the chair safely.

When you get to the airport:
1. Arrive early

2. Always check your chair or scooter at the boarding gate and request it be brought back to you at the gate when you arrive.  Usually the arrival is where there is biggest chance of things going wrong.  Often the ground crew insist on taking heavy wheelchairs to baggage reclaim which will mean you need to get to baggage reclaim by other means.  It is at this time YOU MUST insist your chair is brought to the plane doors for you if you are at all unsure about using an ill fitting airport chair.

3. It is suggested that you use gel or foam filled batteries in your scooter or power chair. They are also known as dry cells.  In our experience airlines will refuse or are extremely reluctant to take acid filled batteries nowadays.

4. If you use a fold up manual wheelchair you can request that it be stowed in the on board coat closet. (NOTE: There is only room for one wheelchair and the service is available on a first come first served basis, so you should arrive early to make your request. Plus not all planes have a coat closet).

5. Make sure your name and address is on your equipment and that it has a gate delivery tag if it is being stowed below.

6. If you have to change planes request that your own equipment be returned for the layover. This not only assures your independence while in the terminal, it reduces the risk of it getting lost or damaged. Since wheelchair users are last off the plane make sure you allow enough time to make your connection.  At least an hour and at big airports at least an hour and a half.

7. DAMAGE CONTROL - Remove seat cushions and any other parts that could easily become separated from the chair. Take these items into the cabin with you. Attach instructions on scooters or power chairs detailing how and where to disconnect the batteries, also instructions for any other disassembly or prep that might be necessary for transport. If you have a large power chair, be aware that on some planes the cargo opening is only 26" high. Therefore some disassembly may be required. You can ask what type of equipment will be used when you make your reservations. Having instructions on your equipment are very important because even if you are available to give the employees instructions, the crew at the other end didn't see how it came apart.

8. If you need assistance transferring to the plane seat, take responsibility for yourself and tell the staff how to help you or pick you up, etc. Yes, they should be trained, but you are always safer not assuming anything.

9. Before landing remind the flight attendant that you will need your equipment brought to the gate so they can radio ahead to make the arrangements. This can help speed things up.

10. If you have any problems or damage ask to speak to the "Complaint Resolution Officer" (CRO). Each air carrier is required to have a CRO available by phone or in person at all times. This person is specially trained in dealing with problems that travelers with disabilities may encounter.

11. If you are travelling with a scooter or power chair make sure you arrange for transportation that will be able to accommodate your equipment upon arrival.

If you only need a scooter or wheelchair for distance you may prefer to rent one at your destination for a day or the entire trip. Also many theme parks and other attractions that require a lot of walking have scooters or wheelchairs available for rent or loan.

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