Manual Wheelchair User Boarding An Airplane

Content via Magee Rehabilitation Hospital
Magee Rehabilitation Hospital

Now that you’ve gotten to the airport, checked in, and (hopefully) breezed through security, it’s time to board your flight. Mark Chilutti, an avid traveler who is also a wheelchair user, has tips. 


Paraplegic man sitting in aisle wheelchair outside an airplane

First and foremost, be sure to fit in a bathroom break just before you board. This a crucial step in the pre-boarding process “since once I am in my seat, I am not getting out of it until I reach my destination,” Mark shares. You may want to limit your fluids on the day of your flight to avoid an accident on the plane.

When it is time to board, you will need to transfer out of your wheelchair and into a special chair provided by the airline that Mark calls “the straight-back.” You can transfer yourself or ask for assistance if you need it.

Important Reminders for boarding:

– “DO NOT leave anything on your chair that is not bolted down on the chair when it goes to be stored below, or you could be disappointed when you get your chair back.” This includes items like side guards and seat cushions.

– Also, fold or lean the back of your chair down so that it will fit better into the compartment where it will be stored during the flight. You may want to check with attendants to see what position is best for storing your chair.

Agents will then push you in the “straight back” chair to the plane where you will transfer to your seat (again, ask for assistance if you need it.) You may want to sit on your wheelchair cushion during the flight, as Mark does. And also remember to do weight shifts throughout your time in the air to avoid skin issues.

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