Being a wheelchair user can be a bummer in performing many activities. And traveling is surely one such activity. Especially when it requires flying on a plane.
Wheelchairs in no way curb your ability to travel and fly across the world. But the challenges associated with flying with a wheelchair are plenty. Be it the inability to use the restroom for hours during long flights or the fear of having the wheelchair damaged, the struggle is real.
However, we have some amazing tips that can help you simplify your life and fly comfortably as a wheelchair user.
Tips to Help you Fly Smooth in a Wheelchair
Scootaround offers you a variety of comfortable wheelchairs and some awesome tips to make your flight in a wheelchair smooth:
- Choose your seat position carefully:
Seat position can make a lot of difference to your journey if you are a wheelchair user. In most cases, if your preferences are not predefined, as a wheelchair user you may be placed farther back on the plane. This means lesser space and more suffocation. However, if your choice is defined, you can request a bulkhead seat which is the first row seat in the front of the economy class. Being in the front these seats provide greater legroom and more space to transfer. This will make you more comfortable throughout your journey.
- Know your air carrier access rights well :
There are acts in place to avoid discrimination against people with disablities. The Air Carrier Access Act is one such act that will provide you with security and just treatment. So, keep in mind to go through such acts before your travel and take prints or screenshots of important clauses to keep them handy in case of need.
- Protect your wheelchair from harm’s way:
While flying, wheelchairs accompany you to your destination through cargo along with other luggage. However, it is quite possible that your wheelchair may suffer damages in transit. Detach your removable wheelchair parts like footrest, headrest, etc and store them in a bag that you can carry with you in the plane. Wrap the remaining parts with cushion packing or bubble wrap to protect them from damage. In case your wheelchair requires special operating techniques, take a print of the same and tape it to the wheelchair before it is sent to cargo. This will help others in operating it properly avoiding any damage due to wrong usage. Also, mention your name, contact details and address on the wheelchair so that anyone can reach out to you in case the chair goes missing. In case your wheelchair still gets damaged in some way, file a complaint with the airline before you exit the airport. This makes the airline liable to fix your chair.
- Plan your washroom visits beforehand:
After ensuring that you have the right seat and your wheelchair is well protected, the next important and most challenging thing on flight is using the restroom. Since your equipment will be in cargo and you will be seated the entire journey, washroom usage can be awkward and difficult. To make this easy, request for an onboard chair similar to the aisle chair. However, you will need a companion for transfer to and from the onboard chair. Another alternative is to use a disposable urinal that allows you to urinate from your seat itself removing the need of going to the lavatory.
- Inform the ground crew about your requirements:
As a wheelchair user your needs for travel are a bit different. And so you need to inform the ground crew about your requirements in advance to avoid any inconvenience. To begin with, you will require an aisle chair for onboarding. Usually the airlines make such arrangements beforehand based on your pre-filled data with them. However, it is always better to be safe than sorry. So try to arrive at least 2 hours early at the airport. You will need this time to get things sorted, place requests for your travel, use assistance from clueless crew members, and most importantly you will be the first one to get on board. Being specific about your wants will help you sail through comfortably.
- Travel light:
Traveling with light luggage is always a great travel hack. Because at the end you have to carry your own luggage. So more luggage means greater difficulty carrying it. So try to accommodate only the most necessary items in your luggage and keep the number of bags limited. Since you will be the last person getting out of the plane owing to your disability, you are probably going to face difficulty searching for your luggage. Hence, it is important to travel as light as possible. In case you have company, carrying the luggage becomes easier as it can be shared between you two.
- Ask for a gate check claim ticket:
When you onboard the plane, your wheelchair will undergo a gate check. This gate check will be conducted at the gate where you board and you will be required to answer a few questions about your wheelchair for the same. These questions surround information like your wheelchair’s weight, type of battery, etc. It is at this time that you must ask for and acquire a gate check claim ticket from the crew members. Also, you must cross check the availability of an aisle chair for your onboarding.
Flying in a wheelchair is a tricky task. But it is an important skill to hone. And if you are all prepared beforehand, flying can be as smooth as butter. Knowing the nitty gritty details of your travel and taking references from experience of those who have travelled on a flight in a wheelchair before will help you be more confident. The above tips are surely going to come to your aid and help you have a comfortable and relaxed flying experience. Just keep reminding yourself of the adventure that awaits you post the flight and you will know that at the end it is all worth it!