-This is a collaborative post-
Being in a wheelchair shouldn’t mean you can’t go traveling. However, it does mean you need to make some extra preparations before you leave, so you can concentrate on enjoying your trip. If you’re planning a holiday abroad then follow these tips — your journey will be a lot smoother.
1. Plan ahead
Before you book your flight, find out if the airline has disabled toilets and disabled access. Communicating clearly with the airline will make the whole travel process easier, so tell them about your disability, illness, or injury and your wheelchair, giving them as much notice as possible. It’s also beneficial to let them know the best way to transport your wheelchair (e.g. does it need to remain upright?) and the best way to collapse it if need be.
Ask about the boarding process. In some airports you’ll be able to stay in your wheelchair until you transfer to your seat, in others you’ll move from your wheelchair to another one (normally a skinny aisle chair) which will take you through the airport. Some airlines will require that you travel with a companion or carer.
Before you go, don’t forget to label your chair with your name, address, and destination airport.
2. Book an aisle seat
Many airlines have a number of designated aisle seats close to the toilets that are suitable for passengers who use a wheelchair. If they haven’t already assigned you a seat, make sure you book one so your journey is as comfortable as possible.
3. Work out what you can take with you
Passengers can normally travel with up to two items of mobility equipment free of charge and it won’t count as part of your baggage allowance. This can vary from airline to airline, however, so always check their guidelines first.
4. Pack extra batteries
Hand-propelled wheelchairs can be put straight in hold. However, some electric wheelchairs are powered by batteries that could leak. These batteries must be removed before the wheelchair is placed in hold (sometimes baggage handlers may need to disconnect the batteries and cap them). Batteries that cannot spill do not have to be removed. Make sure you know which category your wheelchair falls into before you travel, and pack extras if you can.
5. Choose your travel insurance carefully
Airlines are required to carry your wheelchair free of charge. However, it’s not always compulsory for them to compensate you if it is lost or gets damaged, so make sure your travel insurance policy covers this. Alternatively, you could invest in separate insurance for your wheelchair for your peace of mind.
6. Arrive early
Leave plenty of time to check in, go through security, board the plane, and transfer to any connecting flights (make sure there is more than an hour between them). You will normally have the opportunity to board before everyone else, so make the most of it to ensure you have a relaxing flight.