Travel Suggestions

Tips for Flying with a Wheelchair

Flying with a wheelchair

It is not uncommon to run into stressful times while traveling. Navigating the ups and downs of departing from an airport requires an immense attention to detail. Even after booking you’re likely holding your breath that everything will go according to plan. This means without a doubt that flying with a wheelchair is even more cumbersome. Recently, we surveyed our most well-traveled clients for some insight into the dos and don’ts of flying with durable medical equipment. 

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.

Choose Your Airline Thoughtfully

Luckily for consumers 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 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 Carefully

It is said that preparation is key and when traveling with your wheelchair, there’s no room for error. Holding the airline responsible for their commitment to you and your needs will go a long way. 

  • Check with the airline multiple times about your wheelchair or service animal

Preparing your wheelchair for the wear and tear is crucial. 

  • 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.

  • Tighten and label all parts of the chair so that no attachments end up missing

This gets ahead of it and ensure aggressive handling of the chair does not break it.

Multiple responses refer to luggage and travel clothes.

  • Wear leather sole shoes that slip on and off easily
  • Bring a jacket or blanket along to use as a pillow or cover
  • Pack light to keep things simple for yourself .
Flying with a wheelchair

Conquer Security Effortlessly

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. While our respondents agree that airport security should be more efficiently trained, they give specific advice that might be helpful to speed the process along. 

  • Have ready all your paperwork for a service animal or an additional notarized letter from your doctor. 
  •  Be patient, smile, and give yourself plenty of 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.

Flying with a wheelchair

Board Confidently

Of all points of travel, boarding might be the most stressful. Knowing what to expect increases the likelihood of a successful experience. 

  • Bring your own sling and talk to the ramp manager ahead of time
  • Plan ahead of arrival with the airline 

Other contributors place importance on the equipment itself.

  •  Wait on the plane until they bring your personal wheelchair 
  •  Keep an eye on your carry-on as other passengers exit before you

Making sure you have control of your personal effects will help to eliminate any hardships related to the disappearance of these items. 

Flying with a wheelchair

We know that when all is said and done, getting to your destination is the most important goal. But the journey there is also important. Hopefully these tips from other travelers that rely on a wheelchair will be encouraging and inspiring for your next adventure.

Luckily, Wheelchair Getaways can help cross one thing off your list and that is transportation out of the airport after you arrive. Our network of wheelchair accessible van rental companies is available to you. They service dozens of airports nationwide so no matter where you’re headed, there will be an option for you! Visit our website or give us a call at 866-224-1750 to get a quote today.

It is crucial to thank our contributors: Tara, Heather, Linda, Jessica, Annie G., Jessica, and Bruce. Your insight and participation are valued.


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