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Thread: How to travel in w/c on plane?

  1. #1

    How to travel in w/c on plane?

    going to shriners soon, how will the seating be arranged? I wasn't given a seat #, just flight#, i'm new to this. I don't know what to wxpect to do when I get to the airport.

  2. #2
    Call the airlines now and tell them you are traveling with someone in a wheelchair. Get an assigned seat (unless you are flying an airline that does not offer assigned seats, such as Southwest). Try to get a bulkhead seat if possible, although he is not entitled to this unless he has legs that will not bend or traveling with an assistance animal. If he might need assistance from you during the flight, you are entitled to be seated together, even if they must move someone else to do so.

    Arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before the flight, and be at the gate at least 1 hour ahead. Check in at the airline desk and ask for an escort through security and to the gate. Tip this person. As soon as the gate agent arrives, tell them you will need the following:

    - two people to lift him.
    - to gate check his wheelchair (and get it tagged)
    - an aisle chair
    - a seat in a row with lift up arms (if not a bulkhead seat or first class).
    - ask if getting bumped up to first class is an option
    - tell they you need to be pre-boarded

    The gate agent should pre-board wheelchair passengers first. Have him stay in his wheelchair up to the door of the plane. Transfer (or have him lifted under your direction, safely) onto the aisle chair. Be sure all safety straps are used. The wheelchair can be stowed in the cabin if it collapses enough and the space is not already taken by another wheelchair, otherwise it will be carried down to the hold. Be sure to keep the wheelchair cushion and any backpack or easily removed parts with you.

    They will wheel him to the seat using the aisle chair and then lift him into the seat (this is why you need a seat with an aisle arm that lifts up). Be sure he sits on his wheelchair cushion. Ask the cabin attendant to assure that the wheelchair was properly stowed and is actually on board (and not left behind on the jetway).

    About 30 minutes before landing, call the cabin steward and tell them that upon arrive you will need:

    - two people to lift him.
    - his gate checked wheelchair brought up to the jetway and secured
    - an aisle chair
    - an escort to baggage claim

    You will be the last people off the plane. Be sure no one runs off with the wheelchair (it happens, often). Reverse the process to get into the aisle chair and then at the door of the plane into the wheelchair. Tip the escort who helps you get to baggage claim.

    Last edited by SCI-Nurse; 07-19-2008 at 10:21 PM.

  3. #3
    And don't worry, it's quite do-able. Just remember that YOU are the one that knows what needs to happen, and how. Then make sure that is what happens.

    I've never had a bit of trouble with flying post-sci.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Question KLD .... you mentioned to be sure no one else "borrows" the wheelchair. Do you recommend that the companion leave the plane with everyone and stay with the chair?
    T7-8 since Feb 2005

  5. #5
    Yes. That is what we do now when I travel with my parents. My dad's "job" is to get off the plane first and wait for and guard the wheelchair. I stay with my mother until we get her onto the aisle chair.

    Twice when flying we had some other passenger take the manual wheelchair (Quickie II) at the door of the plane, claiming they thought it was an airport chair. In San Juan, PR once my dad had to chase the people all the way across the airport and just caught up with them as they were getting into a cab...not sure if they would have tried to take the wheelchair all the way into the cab or not. That was in the early 1990s, and since then, we have always done as I explained above and never had a problem since, but I know others who have had the same problem even in the last couple of years.


  6. #6
    I flew recently and it went pretty smoothly (minus some bladder mishaps). Don't stress over it too much (I did); the airline probably knows what to do, but I do emphasize KLD's tip to remind the flight attendant before you land what you'll need.

  7. #7
    Super Moderator Sue Pendleton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Wisconsin USA
    And Southwest is really good at putting most wheelers in bulkhead seats if you get there early. Because of the lay out of all their planes it avoids using an aisle chair which saves them time.
    Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow."

    Disclaimer: Answers, suggestions, and/or comments do not constitute medical advice expressed or implied and are based solely on my experiences as a SCI patient. Please consult your attending physician for medical advise and treatment. In the event of a medical emergency please call 911.

  8. #8
    Piece o' cake.

    I agree 100% with KLD (awesome advice as always!). Other things I can think of:
    - Cath before getting on the plane. Then you don't have to worry about it during the flight, especially if there's a delay. No big deal to do it on the plane (cover up with a blanket) but easier to get it out of the way on the ground.
    - Don't be afraid to drink (water, juice, maybe soda) to stay hydrated.
    - If you have an air cushion (mine's a Roho Quattro) keep in mind that it will get firmer while the plane is flying. Not a big deal, but if you can adjust the air pressure (and know how to get it right), go ahead. Otherwise, just be extra-diligent about pressure releases.
    - I have a pretty narrow chair ... a lot of planes these days have aisles wide enough that I don't even need an aisle chair to get to the first class seats or the first row of cattle class. It's no big deal to do the aisle chair, but it's not my favorite part of flying ;-)
    - In my experience, it doesn't really matter what seat number I get when I book the flight. I talk to the people at check-in and at the gate. 99% of the time they can get me a bulkhead or first class.
    - See if you can convince them to put the chair in the on-board closet. The flight attendants are always like "hmm...I dunno...umm" but if you show them how small the chair gets without it's wheels, etc - they're happy to accomodate.
    - If they insist on putting the chair "in the belly" specifically ask a flight attendant to do you the favor or making sure it's not left on the jetway or on the tarmac.

    Relax and enjoy!

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