6 air-travel tips for the mobility-challenged

Written by kvfawcett on December 23, 2010 – 11:15 am -

I’m currently traveling with a friend who has difficulty walking and airports are so huge these days, that it’s better to be prepared than to suffer — or even miss a flight because you don’t make it to the gate on time.

1. When you make your flight reservations, call the airline and inform them that you will need a wheelchair. You can either specify that you be met at drop-off point outside or at the check-in counter. Ask whether or not the airport allows escort passes for a family member to accompany you.

2. My travel companion can walk through security. But, for those who can’t, you can request a manual security check. And yes, you can insist that it be performed by a same sex inspector.

3. Take your time and refuse to be rushed. (This applies for people who aren’t mobility challenged.) Travelers are required to remove all outer layers, belts, shoes, liquids, electronics and more. Make certain you collect everything before leaving the screening area. Don’t think that because you’re being escorted by an airline employee, that he or she will make certain you retrieve all of your belongings. If anything, they’re on a cell phone being instructed when and where to pick up the next passenger (or perhaps talking to their significant other).

4. Most airlines allow people with disabilities and those with children to board first. Don’t be surprised if the person who’s pushing your wheelchair asks for a tip. This is not mandatory since they’re paid to perform this service. It’s up to you whether or not to tip. My friend does unless the the escort has been ruder than rude.

5. Make certain you inform the flight attendants before landing that you’ll need wheelchair assistance. Even if the airline has it in your record, details do get lost in transit.

6. Have all of your papers (passport, driver’s license, alternative ID, doctors’ papers, itinerary and boarding pass) in one easily accessible place. Around the neck pouches are often the best bet. However, don’t keep credit cards or money (except for what you’ll use for tips) in it.

If there is a plus to being mobility challenged, it’s that you’re generally escorted through security or customs before others and don’t have to wait. But, please please, don’t take advantage of wheelchair escorts for this privilege. People do and it’s a sad commentary on what some will do to beat the system.

The above are just a few fundamental tips. What others can you add? Let’s face it, air travel is no picnic these days and any advice as to how to make it easier, is appreciated.

Photo: Piotrus, Wikimedia Commons

Posted in Consumer Traveler |