When you think about the experience of flying abroad, you probably picture the hassle of getting to the airport in the early hours. Not only do you imagine waiting in long queues, dealing with security checks, spending hours of waiting about you have to endure the chore of flying itself.
If you use a wheelchair however, you probably feel even worse.
Because flying with a wheelchair isn’t very fun. In fact, it can be a real nightmare.
Wheelchair users may have to get up earlier, spend longer getting there, pack more items which need checking (such as medicine), worry about facilities in the airport and are forced to spend longer on the aeroplane.
If that wasn’t bad enough, wheelchair users have to organise their trip to a greater degree too – from informing the airline and the airport itself, to contacting the hotel, organising transfers, medicine, researching local amenities – all to ensure that their needs are met.
Yes, organising travel with a wheelchair can be a real pain if you’re not prepared.
With that in mind the wheelchair insurance provider Chartwell have put together a handy guide to make sure your trip is fun and stress free:
1. Planning ahead
Before you can even start to plan your trip, you need to plan ahead and do your research. This means picking a holiday hotspot or destination which is wheelchair friendly. You don’t want to travel to a place which isn’t wheelchair-friendly (unless you have to, of course)!
Spend some time reading hotel reviews. See what activities you can do which are easy to do by someone in a wheelchair. Check out restaurants which cater well for people with a disability (ramps, toilets etc)
Once you’re set on your destination, the hard work begins!
2. Know your rights
Under EU legislation, disabled people and those with reduced mobility have legal rights when travelling by air.
Did you know that all aeroplanes with more than 100 seats are required, by law, to allow one folding, manual wheelchair on board?
Did you know that all aircraft must provide accessible toilets?
Did you know that airports must provide free assistance to get disabled and less mobile passengers to their flight?
A full list of your rights when you fly can be found on the EHRC website.
3. Booking your trip
When you book your trip, you need to tell your travel agent or tour operator. You may need to visit your doctor to get medical clearance to travel.
If you book online, this may not be possible, so you may need to contact the airline or tour operator directly. You need to tell them your needs and the assistance you expect you will need.
4. Before you go
Around 48 hours before you fly, it’s always a good idea to contact your airline. You should tell them if you need an on-board wheelchair, the use of medical oxygen or a supply of electricity to charge your chair.
Pay a visit to the airport’s website and check out the facilities on offer. You may need a designated parking bay, for example.
It’s likely that you will need to arrange flight assistance. This means someone employed by the airport will escort you to and from the gate. You will also be boarded first. Once you get to your destination, you will be met by someone to take you to the baggage hall and assist with getting a taxi or rental car.
5. At the airport
When you check in, the airline staff should be on-hand to offer assistance. You may need to check-in your wheelchair before it is then taken into the hold and you transferred into an airline chair. Because security checks are carried out on every passenger, and if you are given assistance they will be able to explain your needs.
6. On board
Because you will probably the first one on the plane, you will spend the longest amount of time on board. If you are allocated a seat it should be one with ample legroom and footspace – this is why you need to inform the airline in plenty of time of your needs. All mobility equipment should be safely stowed away, and should be made available to you upon landing. Be aware that if your equipment is lost or damaged, the airport is legally required to provide a temporary replacement.
7. On your holiday
If you’ve done your research, then you will be staying at a hotel with wheelchair-friendly amenities, so you should have a brilliant time.
However, should the unthinkable happen and you have an accident, you will need to claim on your travel insurance. There are special policies designed for users of wheelchairs – and all differ – so check the small print!
Make sure you choose a policy which covers pre-existing medical conditions and disabilities, loss of medication, wheelchair cover, and protection should your carer become ill.
To sum up…
Travelling with a wheelchair can be difficult to arrange – but if you plan ahead and get covered then you should be free to enjoy yourself like everyone else!
Written by Liam Tarry