First time? Traveling on a plane with a wheelchair

Many of our clients, and maybe you as well, have never taken a flight since they are using a wheelchair. It can be a frightening thought to have to leave your wheelchair, trust the airport staff to be careful and get around in a new place afterwards. We came up with these flying tips for wheelchair users to help you understand how it works and take away your questions, worries and stress. 

flying as a wheelchair user
First thing to know is that there is always assistance available in the airport. Staying calm and asking for help will allow you to feel as relaxed as possible. 
Especially for travelers who don´t have an assistant or family member traveling with them, it´s important to know you will be helped.
While you are booking the flights, you can already indicate that you will be traveling in a wheelchair, and indicate which type of assistance is appropriate for you. Two days in advance, you will have to call the airline to remind them of the assistance you will need. If you don't feel comfortable booking your own tickets, then rely on us, a professional agency to do this for you. We are glad to help you out with this.
How does it work in the airport?
  • Make sure to arrive 2 or 3 hours before your flight leaves. This way you have all the time in the airport to get around, and feel comfortable. Once you arrive in the departure hall,  go to the check-in desk of your airline. 
  • There you will hand over your ID, boarding pass and luggage. You also confirm to the staff that you are traveling in your own wheelchair.
    TIP 1 : Limit the amount of hand luggage and put as much as you can in your bigger suitcase to have your hands free while you are in the airport and on the plane. 
    TIP 2 : The easiest way is to take the manual wheelchair and hire an electrical wheelchair on the spot when traveling. If you take your manual wheelchair, the wheelchair immediately gets a luggage tag at the check-in desk and you can stay in it until the entrance door of the plane. If you are traveling with an electrical wheelchair or a power chair, you will need to take the wheelchair apart and it becomes a piece of luggage. The airport staff gives you a manual wheelchair from the airport. So you will always go in a manual wheelchair from the check - in desk to the gate either yours or the one from the airport. If you travel by yourself, an airport assistant will help you get to the gate.
    An electrical wheelchair cannot be used in the airport after checking in and can get damaged.
  • Then you go through the customs control and the security check. Most airports have a reserved area for disabled travelers in a wheelchair so the security check goes quicker for you. Make sure to remove any accessories of your wheelchair and put them on the tray of the scanner. The staff will help you get through the security check easily and just do the necessary checks to ensure a safe airport for all travelers.  
    Now you can do some shopping and wait until you can finally board at the gate.
    You can tell the crew at the gate that you will be flying with your wheelchair, and that you will need the assistance to get into the transfer seat when the plane is ready.
  • You have priority to go first on the plane, and wheel through a small tunnel to the plane. You will be able to remain seated in your own manual wheelchair until you enter the plane. If you are taken onto the plane via the tarmac, a lift will be provided for you. Once you are in the plane, the assistant will help to put you in the aisle seat. You usually get a seat in front of the plane and at the window (for safety reasons). 
    TIP 3: take a cushion or pillow so you sit comfortable.
    Your manual wheelchair will be placed in the luggage compartment of the plane. Make sure you have taken all lose accessories off the wheelchair with you on the place. 
  • Now you can "Sit Back & Relax". Watch a movie, take a nap or read up on your holiday destination!
  • Once the plane has landed, all other passengers will leave the plane first and then the staff will help you out of the aisle seat. Usually they have taken out your manual wheelchair for you, and it will be used to escort you to the arrival hall where your driver will be waiting for you.
Travel tips

  • Take a medical proof, written by your doctor in English that confirms that you are able to travel and take a flight.
  • If possible, travel with a manual wheelchair. You can rent an electric wheelchair or mobility scooter at your holiday destination. We recommend this to avoid damage to your electrical wheelchair during the flight.
  • Take a photo of your wheelchair before going on the plane. This to prove any damage
  • Take a repair kit with you on your holidays.
  • If you have a seat cushion in your wheelchair, take it with you and put it in your airplane seat. This makes it more comfortable. 
  • Take any individual parts of your wheelchair with you on the plane.
  • Reduce your hand luggage, and leave all of the unnecessary items in your big suitcase. Then during the flight, you don´t have too much stuff with you and you have your hands free.
  • Communicate your needs and requests at any time to the staff. 
  • During short-haul flights, going to the toilet, is almost impossible. On long-haul flights (more than 6 hours) there is always a wheelchair available on the plane. But still it can be difficult (because of the limited space in the toilet). Drink and eat as little as possible for your flight and go to the toilet in the airport before take-off.  Take your precautions or discuss with your doctor what you can do.

Any questions or feedback, please let us know!

flying as a wheelchair user