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Air Travel Tips for People with Disabilities

AirTravel Tips for People with Disabilities

Image &Information Courtesy MobilityInternational USA


The logistics of overseas travel can be a challenge, even for the most intrepid traveller with a disability. Experience is an effective teacher to help you learn strategies for handling flights, customs procedures, and other aspects of entering a foreign country.

  • Book flightswell in advance and call the airline directly to ensure that alldisability-related needs will be met. Ask for the name and positionof each person you speak with and record this information.
  • Makearrangements for travel to and from airports. Many U.S. companieslike taxis and airport shuttles offer this service free of charge.Make these arrangements well in advance along with your flightarrangements to avoid frustration upon arrival and departure.
  • Arrive atthe airport one hour earlier than normally advised. This will allowtime for accommodations to be made and avoid delays throughsecurity.
  • Considervarying the lengths of your flights depending on disability-relatedneeds. Long flights may be uncomfortable, especially for people whocannot use inaccessible airplane toilets. Shorter connecting flightsmay be a better alternative.
  • Allow atleast 90 minutes between connecting flights (or longer if requiredto pass through immigration and customs during a layover) in orderto ensure enough time to transfer between gates.
  • Try toinvestigate the layout and access features of all of the airportsalong your route even if you’re only expecting a short layover andconsider possible contingency plans if access is unavailable. Abedpan or urinal in your carry-on luggage just might save the day ifyou are a wheelchair user.
  • Ask forassistance and be specific on how to be lifted if needed inenplaning and deplaning, including assistance beyond the screenercheckpoints and between connecting gates but keep track of yourluggage if going through customs.
  • Request thatan unticketed individual assist you through security to yourboarding gate, if needed, by going to the airline’s check-in deskand receiveing a "pass" allowing them to go through thescreener checkpoint without a ticket.
  • Set upspecial dietary requirements or need for assistance at meals(airline personnel are not permitted to assist with eating, butshould assist with opening packages and identifying food items on ameal tray).
  • Request aspecific seat in advance such as the bulkhead seat (first row in asection) if needed for wheelchair transfer, a physical condition, orfor your service animal. Be aware that not all seats have moveablearmrests.
  • Researchonline information about border patrol and customs screening at theairport and if you have difficulty communicating explain what wouldbe helpful for them to do related to your disability (e.g. writingon piece of paper their questions).