Holiday travel can be stressful for anyone. But if you or one of your traveling companions requires a wheelchair, traveling can get even more complicated. A wheelchair makes getting around an airport more difficult, requires extra security checks, and can make it very hard to get on and off an airplane. If you’re planning to travel during this holiday season, and you or someone you’re traveling with requires a wheelchair, keep reading to get a few helpful travel tips.
Request a Wheelchair when Booking
When booking your airline ticket, you should be given the opportunity to request a wheelchair. It’s important to do this when booking so that the airline staff are aware of your needs in advance, and so they have a wheelchair on hand for you to use. If you wish to use your own wheelchair in the airport, this is typically okay. However, due to space concerns on the airplane, you will be required to transfer to an airport-supplied wheelchair at the gate.
The staff can help you with transferring to the airline’s wheelchair and getting you to your seat on the plane. Your own mobility aid will then be checked and loaded onto the plane, free of charge, and will be waiting for you at your arrival gate.
Please note that these procedures can vary depending on the airline you’re flying with and the airport. If you have concerns, call the airline directly and ask them what you need to do to ensure your mobility needs are met during your travels.
Arrive Extra Early
It’s always a good idea to arrive at the airport well before your plane departure time. Typically, most airlines will suggest arriving one and a half to two hours early. Of course, airports tend to be extra busy around the holidays, so arriving earlier at this time of year is a good idea; and, because a wheelchair can make the security check process longer, it’s best to arrive between two and a half and three hours early.
Be Prepared for Security Checks
During the TSA check, your wheelchair will need to be thoroughly inspected for any contraband items, in addition to the standard security procedures. Because a wheelchair will obviously set off regular metal detectors, and they can’t go through other security scanners, you’ll likely need to be pulled aside for a manual inspection of both your person and your wheelchair. This will almost certainly lengthen the time you spend at the security checkpoint, but try your best to have patience with the process. So long as you arrive early enough, you should have no problem getting to your gate on time.
Sit Near the Front
If you can, request a seat near the front of the plane. This makes it much easier for you to board and deplane, as you won’t have to worry about walking a long distance down the plane’s aisle. Most airlines allow you to select your seat for a slightly higher price, and it may be worth paying those few extra dollars to ensure you have a more accessible seat. If you can’t do this, speak to the gate attendant when you arrive at the airport. They’re typically more than willing to adjust seating to help those with mobility needs have accessible seating.
Take Advantage of Early Boarding
When it’s time to begin boarding, the gate attendant will call for anyone who needs extra time to board—and that means you. Take advantage of the opportunity to board slightly earlier, so you can take your time getting onto the plane and getting the help you need to settle in. It’s much less stressful to board early than to try to navigate the narrow walkways in a wheelchair with other impatient passengers around you.
Use a Smaller Mobility Device
If at all possible, opt to bring a smaller mobility device on your trip. This might mean using a walker, if your mobility allows, or simply a lightweight wheelchair instead of a full-sized one. Having a smaller wheelchair makes navigating the airport easier, and allows airline staff to more easily load and unload your mobility aid for you. If you do opt to travel with a walker, make sure to still request a wheelchair at the airport; it’s much easier to get around in one of the airport’s wheelchairs than with a walker, and they can ensure your walker is waiting for you when you arrive at your destination.
If you need a lighter weight wheelchair for your holiday travels, or need any other kind of mobility aid, contact Elixair Medical today to learn more about what we have available.