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Thread: Air Plane Travel

  1. #1

    Air Plane Travel

    Does anyone have any helpful tips on traveling on an airplane? I would like to take my father back to see his home land Greece. It is a 9 hour flight going and 10 hours on the return. He is a C6-C7 low level quad. Unfortunely he spends 4 hours at a time in his wheel chair because anything more than that is uncomfortable for him. Im not sure how I would transfer him from his wheel chair to the airplane seat etc. If anyone has any experience please help!

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    We've traveled all over the world, even from the US to Russia a few years ago on Lufthansa. From what I understand, they've made some great changes for people in wheelchairs. All airlines will provide help transferring your father from his wheelchair to an aisle chair (kind of a dolly w/a seat), which they will use to get him to his seat, prefererably an aisle seat. Make sure they use 2 people. One will lift him from under his arms and and the other from his knees and place him in his seat. This arrangement doesn't need to be made in advance, just when you check in. You may want to request that the chair be kept on board in coat storage and not be checked in as baggage. We learned that lesson the hard way when the wheelchair failed to make it to the baggage compartment. It wasn't until we arrived in Miami that we realized it was still at the other airport!

    As far as his comfort, the two of you may be better at determining that. Pillows, blankets will be available, and the seats recline. And what about his leg bag? You'll want to think that out too. It seems to me we emptied it at least once, making a quiet midnight run to the bathroom to dump its contents. Others on the forum will probably have some good advice about these issues too.

    When is your trip?

  3. #3
    I would suggest doing a search here under "flying" as the key word. You will find a lot of information.

    How does he manage his bladder? If he has an indwelling catheter, just be sure he drinks enough fluids and that you empty the bag every 4 hours or so. We have a travel urinal from Rolli-Moden that works great, but many people just use an empty water or soda bottle. If he does intermittent cath, this can be done under a blanket using a touchless type kit (and discarded) or he can opt for an indwelling catheter for both the flight over and the flight back.

    He should wear elastic hose to prevent blood pooling in the legs, which can cause edema and put him at risk for DVT. He need to stay hydrated to avoid this as well.

    Any disability equipment (commodes, shower chairs, raised toilet seats, extra suitcase of skin or bowel/bladder supplies) is not counted in excess baggage limits. Be sure it is labeled "Medical supplies for personal use".

    Work with your dad to build up his sitting time. He will need at least 3 hours of sitting time prior to departure and 3 after arrival in order to get to the airport, wait, get on the plane, get off the plane (last) and get to your destination.

    They are only required to keep your wheelchair in the cabin if is it is a compact chair (not power or non-folding), and this is only if there is not already another wheelchair in its place. We always gate-check ours, but either myself or my father is in charge of watching them until they carry it on to the cargo bay of the plane. About 1/2 hour from your destination/plane change alert the cabin crew that you will need the chair to be brought up to the door, that you will need two lifters, and that you will need an aisle chair. Be sure to grab the chair as soon as you arrive too (have it gate checked for any plane changes, not just at the final destination) and have the steward/stewardess guard it for you, as we have twice had someone try to take our expensive chair like it was an airline chair (duh!). Take everything removable off the chair and carry it onto the plane (armrests, leg rests, etc.) I assume he is not taking a power chair, but if so, also remove the control box and take that with you. Be sure the chair is labeled with your address here as well as your destination address (use both Greek and English).

    Don't let them lift your father under his arms. This can be extremely painful, and even dangerous for someone with his level of SCI. We take two gait belts, and put one tightly around the waist, the other around both thighs together. I instruct the airline lifters (you definately need two) to lift by these straps, not by body parts, and I make sure they don't catch feet, hands, etc. and they don't do any banging or bruising. Be sure to ask for (and if not reserved) get changed to a seat with a swing up armrest. They do have them...even if the gate agent and cabin crew think they don't. You are entitled to sit next to him (not separate) if they must change seats to accomodate his needs.

    Be sure he sits on his wheelchair cushion. If it is a Roho, the air pressure will need to be adjusted when you come to altitude and again when you land.

    Bulkhead seating has more room, but crappy tray tables, and you can only demand this if the person cannot bend their knees.

    Get to the gate very early (at least 1 hour ahead) and as soon as the agent appears ask about getting bumped to first class. Not as available on international flights, but worth the asking as the seats recline more and there is more room (plus better food!).


  4. #4
    Senior Member KDK513's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
    KLD, We traveled for the first time by air last month. Please tell me more about the arm rest that moves. I had to fight like a crazy woman for the bulkhead seat so the "lifters" had room to navigate. I was instructed to request the bulkhead upon arrival, and when I did no one at the Delta desk would promise anything until I kept insisting that I would prefer to resolve the "greater need" issue now rather than upon boarding. I also had to ask someone else to help me, as the first person was very uncooperative and noncommittal. I must say that based upon the posts here I expected better accomodations. Turns out my competition for these seats were families with young children, and lack of training or ignorance. Having traveled with young children and now a paraplegic, the para, hands down, has the greater need. I asked about armrests that lift up and was told there were not any. The worst or most difficult part was trying to lift my husband over the stationary arm rest. A gait belt is a must for any future travel. Regardless, I do not think it would have been posible to lift my husband into a regular seat without a moveable armrest. The Delta employees did not seem very well trained in this function.

    Other challenges we faced were land transportation arrangements falling through. Prepaid transport did not show and trying to find a cab that would allow his chair in the back seat was tough. We finally resorted to his being manhandled into the front seat of various vans. Bottom line...gotta be flexible.

  5. #5
    Thanks for the information. I will continue to reseach this site as you have suggested. My trip is just a thought in my mind right now but I am looking at either the spring or fall of 2005.

  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    It amazes me that modern aircraft don't have movable armrests. That makes no sense to me. And it's not just sci who'd benefit from them.

    KDK, I don't know where you were flying out of, but Delta out of Atlanta is (usually) absolutely wonderful to sci passengers. Countless times our whole family or traveling companions were bumped up to first class because of the w/c. That may be because Delta is based there, and that Shepherd Center is so involved in raising awareness of sci issues in the community.

    BTW, it was an airline out of Raleigh-Durham that failed to load our chair. The airline has since gone bankrupt. That is a nightmare I hope no one ever has to relive.

  7. #7
    A few months ago I flew United to Beijing and back.

    Bulk head seating often doesn't have armrests that move because tray tables and monitors are contained in them. It's either bulk head or movable armrests in many cases.

    I hate gait belts and find it less cumbersome if people lift under my arms and legs. That's my preference as a C5. I've never had problems or pain being lifted over armrests.

    Trying to get bumped up is a good idea, even though I know of a case where somebody was bumped but was served coach food.

  8. #8
    All modern jets (delivered since 1992) that have more than 30 seats will have the swing up armrests on half their seats. It is not unusual for the gate agent and the cabin crew to not know this (poor training) though, and I have frequently had to show them which seats (it is easy to see) and how to release the latch that allows the armrest to swing up. It is usually several rows back in the tourist section.

    Contact Delta (or whomever you are flying) prior to your flight and ask which seats these are on the type of plane you will be flying. If the person you talk to does not know, keep asking for a supervisor until you find someone who does. Then discuss this with the gate agent when they arrive at the gate so you can get your ticket changed to these seats if they are not. Once you are boarding, also discuss this with the cabin crew.

    If you have the specifics of your flight where they told you these do not exist, I would write a letter of complaint to the airline (send to both Customer Relations and the the office of the CEO). I would also encourage you to file an official complaint with the Department of Transportation:

    DOT Consumer Complaint Page

    Here is a summary of the legal requirements for air flight access. I would suggest printing these out and carrying them with you whenever you fly:

    Air Carrier Access Act summary


  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Apex, NC
    I think you have gotten some good information here and its good you are going to check some of the older posts. Ask to speak to the airlines "special services" department (that's what American Airlines calls it). Many times they will be able to get you the bulkhead seating when your travel agent cannot do it or the regular airlines reservations desks cannot do it and will setup the specific assistance that your father requires. Three things I always ask for from the gate agent when I get to the gate:

    1) I'd like to put my chair in the flight attendants closet (my chair is small and folds).

    2) I will need aisle chair assistance

    3) When do we pre-board. For an international flights my experience has been that they start to board approximately 40-45 minutes ahead of time. Preboard so that way you get on first and the closet is empty. I stay close to the gate agent so they don't forget me.

    Have a great trip


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