What to know earlier than flying with a wheelchair for the first time

Our journey via life isn’t all the time on a highway that’s clean, straight and easy. What as soon as was a straightforward and infrequently inconsiderate activity — reminiscent of getting via the airport — can change into what appears like an insurmountable feat.

In some unspecified time in the future, many people might, for quite a lot of causes, discover ourselves in a scenario the place the spirit is wholesome and the angle is constructive, however the physique is reluctantly challenged by age, sickness or harm. We lately had the privilege of touring with a member of the family that falls into that class because of a severe well being downside that occurred final 12 months.

Whereas she will carry out on a regular basis chores and transfer about at dwelling at her personal tempo, her mobility is considerably restricted, which means something past her typical stage of bodily exertion — like navigating via a big, busy airport — will be tough.

So, how does her expertise of flying with a wheelchair evaluate to ours — and what do you have to pay attention to should you’re new to touring with a wheelchair? This is every part to know earlier than you arrive on the airport.


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Requesting wheelchair help

Once we determined to plan a household trip to see fall foliage in North Carolina and Tennessee this previous October, we appeared for wheelchair help choices when reserving our flights.

Whereas the precise course of varies by airline, usually, requesting wheelchair help on the service’s web site is feasible in one among two locations. You could have the choice to request “particular help” throughout the reserving course of itself. If the request can’t be made as you e-book, chances are you’ll as an alternative discover a technique to ask for further help inside the journey particulars part of your airline account after your reservation is finalized.

Do you have to want to keep away from navigating airline web sites to seek out the suitable place to make your request, you can even choose up the cellphone to request a wheelchair or different help out of your chosen service.

Like my relative, you don’t want to repeatedly use a wheelchair at dwelling to reap the benefits of this service. Whilst you’re welcome to carry your individual wheelchair and obtain help utilizing it, you can even make the most of one offered by the airport.

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Moreover, you’ll be able to customise how the airport’s workers assists you when submitting your request. Once we put in our request, we requested that help be offered in any respect concerned airports, from the terminal arrival to the boarding gate after which once more from the departure gate to the terminal exit. Nonetheless, relying in your specific scenario, chances are you’ll not want as a lot help. If that is the case, be aware how a lot help you are in search of when making your request so the airline and airport are conscious.

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Utilizing wheelchair help

As we entered Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), we rapidly discovered our airline’s wheelchair storage space and its attendant. The location was adjoining to the check-in and baggage drop-off space on the primary ground of the terminal.

At IAH, it appeared that every airline within the terminal had an identical setup. The attendant greeted us and was already conscious of our request for wheelchair help, so after scanning my relative’s boarding move and checking her ID for verification, he helped her right into a wheelchair, loaded her private objects and proceeded to push the chair towards the airport’s safety screening strains.

All members of our celebration had been suggested and inspired to remain collectively as a gaggle, and we quickly discovered ourselves at a particular wheelchair entry level on the entrance of the safety strains. We primarily acquired precedence passage to the Transportation Safety Administration checkpoint and subsequent scanning course of.

The airline consultant remained with the wheelchair and our relative all through the process and helped safe private belongings and baggage from the conveyor belt after every merchandise exited the X-ray machine. He then pushed the wheelchair to our departure gate and requested if we would have liked to cease for meals, snacks or a restroom break alongside the best way.


On the gate, he ensured every part was OK and that we had been snug earlier than leaving to help others.

We had solely been on the boarding gate for a brief interval earlier than the gate agent approached and requested if we would have liked assist getting down the ramp to the aircraft. Our journey companion declined, saying she thought she may make it on her personal. We had been then suggested that we may board early when the agent known as for “those who would possibly want further time within the boarding course of.” As soon as once more, our group of three was instructed to remain collectively. This proved useful and important, as we may assist carry objects and retailer them within the overhead bin for our journey companion.

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After a snug two-hour flight from Houston to Atlanta, we waited to exit the plane till everybody else had deplaned, as we had been suggested that this might be the very best plan of action to facilitate the method for the opposite passengers. As we exited the now-empty plane, a smiling aide with a pill displaying my relative’s title was ready with a wheelchair. She scanned the boarding move for the connecting flight, and up the ramp and into Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Worldwide Airport (ATL) we went.

Just like our expertise on the smaller Houston airport, we had been provided time to get refreshments or use the restroom as we made our manner via the a lot busier Atlanta airport. Our subsequent flight was departing from a distinct concourse, so we had a a lot farther journey this time that required traversing two concourses and catching the Aircraft Prepare, the airport’s automated individuals mover.

Our aide knew the place we had been going, so we adopted her lead. It nearly felt like having a private information main us via the airport.

Since we would traveled fairly a substantial distance by this level — 956 steps, plus an escalator, inside ATL alone — our journey companion opted to make use of the wheelchair all the best way to the aircraft’s door. We as soon as once more had the choice to board early, giving us ample time to get seated and settled earlier than the common boarding course of started.

At our remaining vacation spot, Chattanooga, Tennessee, there was once more a wheelchair attendant prepared and prepared to assist us make our manner via Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport (CHA). Earlier than lengthy, we had been exiting the airport to start our leaf-peeping journey in Tennessee and North Carolina.

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Ideas for touring with mobility points

Along with requesting wheelchair help at airports, there are different methods to make journey somewhat simpler if mobility is a problem or concern.

These utilizing rental vehicles ought to bear in mind to carry their incapacity parking placards from dwelling if they’ve them. This perk can show invaluable in decreasing the gap that must be traversed at eating places, outlets, sights and extra.

Moreover, when reserving lodging, be sure that to request a room that’s by an entrance, on the bottom stage or near the elevator if the primary ground isn’t an possibility. Each step saved often is the distinction between a superb expertise and an disagreeable one.

Additionally, know what you are able to dealing with and keep away from overexerting your self. My relative seen her vitality was low at one level throughout our journey, so she opted to take a break day from actions to recharge on the lodge. This stress-free down day went a good distance in protecting her snug for the remainder of our trip, because it made positive she may absolutely take pleasure in and partake in every part else we had on our itinerary.

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Backside line

Touring with mobility points might require somewhat extra effort, however with cautious planning, it’s, with out query, possible. Airports throughout America provide free wheelchair help so that you (or these in your journey group) can get from level A to level B with out encountering too many challenges.

Certain, there could also be points you come throughout alongside the best way, as no system is ideal, however you’ll be able to relaxation straightforward figuring out you will have assist from a staffer who is aware of the ins and outs of the airport you are traversing. By profiting from all of the sources out there to you, it can save you vitality and be extra current whereas out exploring your chosen vacation spot.

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