It is common to run into stress while traveling. After booking you’re hoping everything will go according to plan. When it comes time to depart, if you’re not prepared with every detail covered, you’re likely to miss a flight. Add in the complications that come with flying with a wheelchair and planning becomes even more essential. Recently, we surveyed our most well-traveled clients for some insight into the do’s and don'ts of flying with durable medical equipment. These are the responses from people who have experience flying with a wheelchair.
Anticipating a difficult transfer from wheelchair to plane seat and facing the threat of lost or damaged equipment was a common theme in the results. We decided to gather into one place the most useful information to overcome some of those obstacles. These tips will hopefully elevate the flying experience and help travelers with disabilities regain confidence in the process. Whether you’re already booked and ready to fly or simply daydreaming about your next adventure, these tips might be useful for any upcoming airport interactions.
Best Airline for Flying with a Disability
The airline industry is saturated with choices. From high-end to budget-friendly, we can usually find something to suit our preferences. But for wheelchair users customer service must take priority. Finding an airline that puts the customer first might make flying with a wheelchair a better experience. So, who stands out as a leader in all of this? Our readers agreed overwhelmingly that Southwest airlines is the friendliest option.
Over half of the participants at 57.1% commit to Southwest as their airline of choice. It’s safe to say that good customer service is not on the line here. The other half of voters were split between Delta and JetBlue. One voter admits that she has not yet found the right airline. Trying out different carriers is crucial to pinning down a good fit for you and your needs. If you have not flown with multiple different airlines and made an opinion just yet, consider these results as well as feedback from other wheelchair users before booking your next flight.
Prepare Your Belongings for Flight
It is said that preparation is key and when traveling with your wheelchair, there’s no room for error. One user, Tara, insists on, “checking back with the airline multiple times about your wheelchair or service animal.” Holding the airline responsible for their commitment to you and your needs will go a long way.
Jessica, Annie, and Linda can’t stress enough that “preparing your wheelchair for the wear and tear is crucial.” Jessica recommends, “put signs on the chair and bubble wrap with instructions on handling it.” Making sure the message is clear to the agents will decrease the chance of a loss or misuse. It will also be appreciated by staff so they are able to recover it faster after landing. Another preparation tactic includes tightening and labeling all parts of the chair so that no attachments end up missing. This is a way to get ahead of it and ensure aggressive handling of the chair does not break it.
Multiple responses refer to luggage and travel clothes. “Always wear leather sole shoes that slip on and off easily.” suggests Heather. Keeping a jacket or blanket on hand is also recommended. Our reader Bruce maintains that packing light keeps things simple.
Handling Security when Flying with a Wheelchair
One thing our survey takers had in common across the board is the understanding that not all TSA agents are educated about the needs of a wheelchair user. “They don’t always understand the limitations of the physically handicapped or their wheelchairs.” Bruce shared. Jessica agrees that airport security should be more efficiently trained. Because of this hurdle, other participants give specifically helpful examples that might speed the process along like, having ready all your paperwork for a service animal or an additional notarized letter from your doctor.
Annie and Jessica give credit to simple pleasantries like being patient, smiling, and giving yourself extra time. While it’s no secret that flying with a wheelchair can create hurdles that no other passengers must face, our respondents believe approaching the experience with optimism and kindness will help you through.
Of all points of travel, boarding might be the most stressful. Knowing what to expect increases the likelihood of a successful experience. “I bring my own sling and talk to the ramp manager prior to boarding.” Annie shared. Bruce concurs and states that he plans ahead of time with the airline. Other contributors place importance on the equipment itself and suggest waiting on the plane until they bring your personal wheelchair and keeping an eye on your carry-on as other passengers exit before you. Making sure you have your sights on your personal effects will help to eliminate any hardships related to the disappearance of these items.
Getting to your destination safely with your belongings intact is the goal. But the journey there is also important. We hope these tips from our seasoned wheelchair travelers will be encouraging and inspiring for your next adventure. When you arrive at your destination, Wheelchair Getaways can help make the rest of your journey stress free.
Our network of wheelchair accessible van rental companies is available to provide wheelchair vans for rent once you arrive. We service dozens of airports nationwide so no matter where you’re headed, there will be an option! Visit our website or give us a call at 866-224-1750 to get a quote today.
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It is crucial to thank our contributors: Tara, Heather, Linda, Jessica, Annie G., Jessica, and Bruce. Your insight and participation are valued.