Travelling by plane can take you to wonderful places and on fantastic adventures. And then there are the inspirational travel sayings, such as ‘Life is all about the journey and not the destination,’ and ‘Oh darling, let’s be adventurers!’ But for those travelling with wheelchairs, this doesn’t always sit so well. For the majority of the population, the booking and check-in procedure is relatively easy – but for those with physical disabilities, it is not that simple.
For passengers using wheelchairs, just the airport experience and procedures alone can be an ‘adventure’. Battling luggage, finding your way through insensitive and oblivious crowds, and navigating the check-in and security processes can be very wearying, frustrating and disheartening.
Fortunately, all airlines are required to adhere to international laws of non-discrimination on the basis of disability. Generally, local and international airlines are committed to making all passengers feel at ease and comfortable throughout their journey. For those with wheelchairs, however, there are some helpful steps to follow to make your air travel as hassle-free as possible.
Before your flight
Before you click the ‘purchase ticket’ button, make sure you have read the airline’s policies with regard to travelling with disabilities. All wheelchair travellers will require some practical and logistical airline mobility assistance. To overcome any hitches, it is advisable to give the airline 48 hours’ notice so that your requirements can be met.
Detailed information at your time of booking include the following:
· The type of your mobility device
· Whether wheelchairs are collapsible, electric or non-electric.
· The weight and dimensions of your wheelchair
· Whether you are travelling alone or with a carer
Compliance with civil aviation regulation limits the number of onboard passengers with disabilities that an aircraft is allowed to carry – so make sure that there are wheelchair–friendly seats available on your preferred flight.
If you are booking a connecting flight, it is worth remembering that passengers in wheelchairs disembark last, so that extra 25-30 minutes could impact you catching your connecting flight on time.
At the airport
To avoid your wheelchair being damaged, attach written instructions explaining how it should be operated and how it folds. Remove all detachable parts before turning your wheelchair over to airport personnel – these items should not count as extra baggage. Wheelchair-assisted passengers will be met by the personnel responsible who will walk you through the check-in process, security checks and embarkation.
Most airlines allow wheelchair passengers to pre-board. The Air Carrier Access Act (A.C.C.A.) states that individuals with disabilities are to board ‘before all other passengers, including first-class passengers, elite-level passengers, members of the military, passengers with small children, etc.’
Personal luggage considerations are vital for those travelling with wheelchairs. A rolling suitcase designed to attach to a wheelchair is worth the investment.
In the air
Always confirm that the plane has an onboard wheelchair to access the bathroom. Flight attendants are always available to help.
Once you have taken off, the time has come to start enjoying your journey. Sit back, relax and enjoy the onboard entertainment, start the novel you bought at the Duty–Free, or start up a conversation with your fellow passengers.
On retrieval of your luggage and personal wheelchair, ensure that there is no damage to your wheelchair. In the event of damage, notify the airline immediately. Now that you have reached your destination in one piece, enjoy the adventure, take lots of photos and make many memories. After all, ‘Life is short and the world is wide.’ That applies to all – wheelchairs or not!
For those of who you who are hesitant about the logistics of air travel, please read our recent blogs highlighting local travel in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town, where wheelchairs and their owners are always welcome. If you are travelling by air, we at Shoprider wish you ‘Bon Voyage.’
Shoprider is committed to your journey from the start. We will advise you on the best types of wheelchairs or mobility scooters to suit your unique and specific needs. We are also passionate about providing you with the perfect mobility scooter or wheelchair, giving you the personalised mobility and flexibility you need - no matter if you are staying home or travelling the world.