A Useful Guide to Air Travel with Mobility Aids

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Your holiday is booked and you’re raring to go, but how will you move around at your destination? If you are travelling with mobility or walking aids, such as a cane, crutches, walker or mobility scooter, it can feel especially overwhelming if you want to bring them onto a flight.

It’s important to know that in many countries, you are legally entitled to support when travelling by air if you have a physical disability or reduced mobility due to an injury or age. Commonly known as “Special Assistance”, airports and airlines must provide assistance free of charge to help you have a smooth and comfortable journey. Special assistance is often also available for passengers with hearing and sight difficulties as well as those who struggle with communication and social interaction — this includes individuals with autism or dementia.

Below, we take a look at the various stages of air travel if you require help with your mobility aids.

Before You Arrive at the Airport

When you’re still in the booking stage of your travel plans, now is the time to compare the different airlines for their mobility aid policies. Some airlines can check larger mobility items in, such as electric wheelchairs and mobility aids (and provide you with a manual wheelchair for travel), whereas others allow them on-board. Often, this depends on the size, weight and type of battery your mobility aid uses, so you should have this information on hand when doing your research. Smaller aids such as walking sticks and canes usually count as carry-on luggage.

It’s also important to make your airline aware of your mobility needs as soon as possible — preferably at the time of booking or at least 48 hours before. This will ensure that the correct resources are in place, including priority boarding and additional assistance to make travelling as easy and smooth as possible.

Getting to the Airport

Before you even get onto the plane, you need to plan how to get to the airport. Many airports have introduced a tariff for dropping off outside the terminal, but if you have a blue badge parking permit, you may be able to access the forecourt areas free of charge for drop-off only. You can also find disabled parking spaces if you’re leaving your car at the airport.

Many airports also provide special assistance points located in car parks and at terminal entryways to ensure that staff assistance can be provided if needed.

Assistance in the Airport

Airlines have a responsibility to assist passengers with a disability as you travel through the airport. This includes:

  • Guiding you through the security checkpoint. This can be especially tricky if you have an electric wheelchair, but a member of staff will be on hand to help.
  • Assisting you to your gate location where your flight is departing, as well as onto the aircraft and to your seat. Usually, you will be one of the first passengers on-board.
  • Assistance from onboard cabin crew to assist passengers with reduced mobility to use the onboard wheelchair and move from the wheelchair to the lavatory. If you require assistance with eating your meals or within the restroom, you must travel with a personal care assistant.

  • Assistance from your aircraft seat, through the airport and to the baggage claim area and terminal entrance on arrival to your destination.

With the right preparation, mobility aids do not have to be an obstacle when travelling on a plane. Bon voyage!