Advice and tips for traveling with a wheelchair, walker or cane, and passengers with mobility restrictions.
1. Wheelchairs, Walkers Can Be Gate Checked
If you have a wheelchair, walker, or other mobility aid - any of these items can be checked. Wheelchairs with a wet battery cell are often an issue so call the airline if this is the type you use. Most wheelchairs and walkers can be gate checked, so if you choose, you can use your walker or wheelchair right up to the door of the aircraft.
2. If You Cannot Walk Unassisted, Request a Manual Search
If you use a mobility device like a wheelchair - you can request a manual patdown at airport screening if you cannot walk through the detectors. You can request a same sex screener to perform the manual patdown.
If you use a cane, be aware that it will go on the belt and through the screening machines. If you cannot walk a few steps without your cane, advise the airport security screeners who may provide the options of either a manual patdown, or will return your cane to you after it has been screened, and then you can proceed through airport security screening.
3. Ask if the Airport Permits Escort Passes
If you are using a mobility device like your own wheelchair you may be able to get an escort pass for a loved one to escort you to the gate at some airports. If not, you can ask to have assistance with your chair and not switch over to one of the airline's ones.
4. Prep Your Chair for Gate Checking It
If you are gate-checking (or if at check-in there are no bags to put your wheelchair in) your wheelchair, make sure the foot rests are either removed or folded to reduce the chance of it being damaged. If you have a cushion on your wheelchair remove that and bring it on board with you.
5. Advise the Airline of Your Mobility Limitation
If you use a mobility aid like a wheelchair or walker, advise the airline of the limits of your mobility - whether you can ascend stairs, whether you can walk any distance at all if the ground surface is flat, whether you can get to your seat by yourself and if you need a liftable armrest. All of these are important in terms of getting the level of assistance you may/not need, and when the airline knows in advance, they can have appropriate staff there to help.
6. Where Will Your Mobility Device Be Upon Arrival?
If you are checking-in your mobility aid at check-in and not the gate, ask where it will be brought upon arrival. Some airports have separate areas well away from the regular baggage carousel.
7. Make Sure the Airline Documents It
Make sure your assistance requirements are on file, and double check with either the check-in agent or the gate agent. There are times at the airport when we have surprise carry-off situations (when a passenger requires full assistance to be deplane) and if staff at the arrival airport isn't aware, it means that passenger can be stuck waiting while the airline scrambles to find staff trained in proper lifting to arrive.
8. Consider Preboarding and the Location of Your Seat
Regardless of your mobility restriction, if you need extra time to get to the aircraft then take advantage of preboarding. Aisle seats are generally easier to manage as it can be difficult to access the lavatories when you are in a window seat in a bank of 3 seats.
9. Check-in and Special Assistance
If you require wheelchair assistance, but are not using your own, proceed to check-in regardless - there may or may not be a separate check-in position for special assistance.
10. Possible Discounts for Attendant/Travel Companion
Be aware that an attendant/travel companion may travel at a highly discounted rates in some cases. Any possible situation where this may apply will need to go through your health care provider(s) and the airline's medical desk.