Traveling by airplane involves a lot of planning, especially if you are a wheelchair user. In an episode of Numotion’s WheelTime, Justin Richardson, Numotion’s Director of Advocacy Strategy and a wheelchair user, gives the following tips for flying with a mobility impairment.
“As someone who is a wheelchair user and often finds himself 30,000-feet above the ground, I’ve had my fair share of travel challenges.”
Justin states that most airline carriers clearly offer a thorough selection of disability options while booking a flight online. He recommends that before submitting your payment to double check that you have made all of the selections describing your specific situation.
Justin suggests when booking travel that includes a connecting flight to arrange at least an hour between your initial plane's scheduled arrival and your connecting plane's scheduled departure.
“The importance of clearly communicating your needs cannot be overstated.”
If disability options are not readily available online, Justin advises to call the airline before booking your flight or call after receiving your confirmation number.
“Unfortunately, those of us traveling with disabilities often lose precious suitcase room to medical supplies and other disability-related items,” says Justin. This often makes packing light a challenge. Therefore, Justin suggests packing whatever makes you most comfortable. He also recommends bringing a small bag to carry on the plane that includes essential items. For example, medications and enough urological or daily use supplies to make it through two days.
Justin states that parking in a park-and-ride lot is a great alternative to parking near the terminal which can be expensive. He says, “Utilizing these lots is often half the cost of parking in the primary lots and shuttles to and from the airport terminals are typically accessible.” Justin recommends that if you do park in a satellite parking lot to arrive 30 minutes earlier than the preferred two hours before your departure.
By the time of check-in, Justin says to proceed to your airline carrier’s ticket counter and let the agent know that you are traveling with your own personal wheelchair. This is also a good time to state your need for assistance when boarding the aircraft.
Arriving at security, Justin suggests putting your loose items into the small bag you are carrying onto the airplane. “The fewer loose items you have on your person, the less chance items will become lost,” he says.
Justin states one should be prepared for their entire body and wheelchair to be inspected by a TSA agent. Jump to 3:41 in the episode for a more in-depth explanation of the process.
Justin states, “The gate portion of your airport experience is often the most critical to the success of your travel.” He recommends going to the counter of your assigned departure gate and restating your specific needs to the gate agent, making your presence known. Be sure to ask that your wheelchair is tagged for retrieval at your arrival gate.
After touching base with the gate agent, Justin takes the time to do his bladder management.
Boarding The Plane
To board the plane, you will transfer into an aisle chair. This can be done independently or with assistance from airport personnel. Justin states to make airport personnel aware if you become uncomfortable with how you are being assisted.
Justin recommends asking others to remove any loose items from your wheelchair. Seat cushions, backpacks, and removable side guards should be taken off the chair and placed in the cabin. Justin suggests letting airport personnel know if you have specific instructions on how you would like your wheelchair handled. Some people like to print out the instructions and tape them to their chair.
Depending on your skin integrity, you can choose to sit on your wheelchair cushion as opposed to the airplane seat. Let airport personnel know how they can assist you. Airport transfer assistance can range from minimal to full assist.
Justin advises being prepared to wait when you touch down at your destination as you will be the last person taken off the plane. Getting off the plane will be similar to how you got on the plane only in reverse with new staff to assist.
Justin says that by the time you are taken off the plane your chair should be waiting for you at the bottom of the jetway. Because you were the last person to get off the plane your luggage may be at the luggage office.
Justin states that prior to leaving the airport to inspect your chair for any damage. If damage has occurred notify airline personnel. If you have a wheelchair from Numotion, contact the Numotion Customer Care Center.
To check out more episodes of WheelTime click here!
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