Flying as a wheelchair user has long been challenging, but we can help you travel beyond the expected in 2023. As soon as you arrive at the airport, you can experience our complimentary meet and greet service, including assistance with the check-in process and being escorted through security, ensuring you arrive at your gate on time and begin your travels stress-free.
What's more, to help flying with a wheelchair be as easy as possible at all stages, we've put together our top tips below - ranging from our favourite airlines to which plane seat is best for you...
Pick the Right Airline
All airlines vary in what they offer wheelchair users, so a little bit of research will help you discover which one’s best for your needs. At Ocean Florida, we’ve drawn up a list of airlines we’d recommend for accessibility:
Contact the Airline Ahead of Travel
It’s important to reach out to both the airline and the airport before you travel. This way, you can let them know exactly what you need, so the ground and flight crew can prepare. As soon as you’ve booked, it’s worth calling the airline directly and explaining that you’ll be bringing your wheelchair. Give them as much detail as possible – we're talking your chair’s height, weight, length and width. It’s also a good idea to tell them about any other needs you might have, like if you’ll need assistance with transferring into your seat on the plane.
Airlines officially recommend contacting them at least 48 hours in advance of your departure date. But we’d suggest doing this once you’ve booked and perhaps reminding them again two weeks ahead of your travel date, just to give them plenty of time.
Select a Suitable Seat
After the first three or four rows, most aeroplane seats now have foldable armrests, which makes access a lot easier. And remember that you won’t be able to sit near an emergency exit, so it’s best to avoid booking these seats. For some airlines, including British Airways, there's no charge for reserving your seat if you have a specific seating requirement because of your disability.
Arrive Early at the Airport
Our complimentary meet and greet service is available with every accessible holiday booking. As soon as you arrive, you’ll be greeted curb-side by our friendly team, who can help with the check-in process, security, making sure you arrive at your gate on time, and just generally helping your holiday begin as seamlessly as possible. It is also worth knowing that most UK and US airports now offer special assistance parking and transport connections for passengers with reduced mobility.
With that being said, it’s still wise to arrive early at the airport. A wheelchair might take a little more time to get through security, and you might want to speak to the accessibility team again about any equipment you’ve requested to help with boarding.
Take Your Seat Cushion With You
Before your wheelchair is stored for the flight, take your cushion off the seat. You can use this to sit on during the flight, making those uncomfortable plane seats a little more bearable. What’s more, it means you don’t have to worry about your cushion getting lost in transit.
Ensure Your Chair Is Well-Labelled
It’s unlikely your wheelchair will get lost or separated from its tags. But it’s never a bad idea to have a backup plan. Add an extra tag, sticker, or bit of tape to a secure place with your name, phone number and destination or flight number on it. Just make sure to update your destination for your return flight, so you and your chair don’t end up in different time zones!
Remove Your Chair’s Side Guards
If your chair has side guards, you’ll need to remove these and take them on the plane with you. This is because they can easily get lost or damaged in the cargo area. The same goes for any other parts of the chair that might get caught or can easily detach. There are super-handy wheelchair travel storage bags
out there designed for flying, in which you can place your manual wheelchair to help protect it. And the plane’s closet is an ideal place to hang your spare parts – just ask the flight attendants, who should be happy to help.
If you’ve got a powered wheelchair, make sure to remove critical parts like the joystick control unit, and foot and armrests. It’s also helpful to think about adding instruction labels on how to engage the battery, or the best places to lift it – this should help avoid people lifting from easily breakable parts.
Bring a Transferring Sling
If you can’t transfer yourself, it’s worth bringing your own transferring sling to help get you from your wheelchair to your seat on the plane. Lots of airports and airlines still don’t provide this kind of equipment. But, even if they do, it does mean a lot of manoeuvring. So bringing your own means the airport staff don’t have to insert the equipment under you.
Think About Toilet Management
Unfortunately, most aircraft toilets still aren’t fully accessible, which excludes wheelchair users from using them. But there are ways around having to manage a toilet trip on a flight. There are mini wee bottles for men and women – like the Uribag, which is small, discreet and simple to use.
Pack a Bag for Quick Fix-Ups
Sometimes accidents are unavoidable, so be prepared with a quick-fix bag of tricks. Zip ties and duct tape don’t take up a lot of room, but they’ll save you a lot of stress if your wheelchair gets damaged during the flight. It means you can quickly repair your chair until you can get it properly fixed while still safely enjoying your holiday.
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