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Can I travel with a wheelchair on a plane?

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Can I travel with a wheelchair on a plane?

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Air travel is one of the safest and quickest ways to visit a foreign country. However, luggage restrictions, never-ending lines at security checkpoints and crowded terminals and aircraft can make flying by a scheduled airliner difficult, particularly if you have a physical or mental disability that necessitates the use of a wheelchair. Wheelchair-bound travellers are permitted to fly commercially, and airlines are required to accommodate them without any additional fee. However, there are some important factors to bear in mind, as well as limitations to consider before booking your flight. Medical Repatriation UK provides you with an in-depth guide to help you better navigate airports and flights while traveling with a wheelchair. This article also includes some useful suggestions to make flying with a wheelchair more enjoyable.

Who can request a wheelchair when travelling by air?

There may be times when you require additional assistance getting to and from your flights. Maybe you have a medical condition that makes walking difficult or are recovering from surgery. You may have tripped a few days before your flight, making the journey through the airport excruciating. You could also be pregnant, elderly, or permanently confined to a wheelchair. The big picture is that the situations that necessitate the use of a wheelchair on a plane are likely to vary depending on the passenger's condition and the recommendations of their doctor.

This is where airport wheelchair service can help. As a general rule, all domestic and international airlines are required to provide wheelchair transportation for passengers with limited mobility or other physical and mental disabilities on their way to the aircraft and inside the terminal building. If you need to change planes, your airline must also provide wheelchair assistance and assist you with accessibility issues for the duration of your connection, ensuring a smooth start or end to your journey.

However, all evidence is that this is far more easily said than done.

patient on wheelchair

Difficulties wheelchair users face when flying commercially

Before delving into the specifics, it is important to note that while you can fly with your wheelchair, there are some important factors to consider, namely its size and type. Indeed, even larger planes have enough room only for one standard wheelchair or transport chair. Power wheelchairs and rigid-frame wheelchairs will need to be gate-checked and stored underneath. Power chairs that use a sealed battery, most of which are gel or lead-acid, are normally not problematic.

Advice: Before booking your flight, inquire about the airport's or airline's specific accessibility policy. Make a point of telling them the model and make of your wheelchair so that they can provide you with the necessary information to board the plane.

Traveling to your favourite places, taking a relaxing vacation in a beautiful resort... Flying is meant to be a thrilling experience. For wheelchair users, however, this can be quite the opposite, and even distressing at times, especially when it comes to comfort, safety and accessibility on readily available commercial flights.

One of the major concerns right now is that, while wheelchairs are allowed on commercial airlines, wheelchair users cannot travel in their wheelchairs and must instead be manhandled into a standard, unsupportive airplane seat, which leads to another point of concern. This is the use of aisle chairs that were designed solely for the needs of the aircraft rather than that of the person forced to sit in them. This makes flying painful for those who are unable to sit comfortably, and in many cases, can result in injury and anxiety.

Another issue may arise if wheelchair users are boarded after the other passengers. Anxiety and paranoia can be overwhelming for many people. Indeed, being dragged onto an aircraft like a puppet in front of a large crowd is truly humiliating. Moreover, wheelchair-bound passengers are also concerned about the staff’s attitude and their lack of appropriate training. Despite increased awareness on general disability, diversity, and inclusion, it appears that wheelchair passengers are still being let down.

Other serious concerns include:

  •       carriage of medical equipment;
  •       toileting at airports and onboard the aircraft;
  •       wheelchairs being lost, damaged or coming out with missing pieces.

How to get around the above difficulties?

Commercial airlines make some effort to meet the needs of all of their passengers. However, with so many people on one flight at a time, even the best companies in the industry may face difficulties when assisting passengers with a variety of medical, mental, and other conditions. A medical escort can help overcome these obstacles.

medical escort

You may have heard the term before, but how exactly can a medical escort help you? This health professional provides non-emergency medical services.

Medical Repatriation UK does, in fact, provide a wide range of air ambulance services. As a result, if you require assistance while air traveling, our medical escorts will provide you with the medical equipment, assistance, moral support, and anything else you require during your flight.

A medical escort is also a more cost-effective way of traveling long distances by air for passengers with basic medical needs. When Medical Repatriation UK assigns you a medical escort, we assess your immediate needs as well as the type of medical equipment you may require on board.

What are the benefits of Medical Repatriation UK's medical escort services over those provided by commercial airlines?

Our medical escorts, at Medical Repatriation UK, are experienced and vetted health professionals. Think of them as your personal doctor or paramedic who will assist you throughout the entire travel process, ready to cater to your medical needs, and who are also there for your personal ease and comfort.

As such, hiring our medical escort services gives you an advantage, because we will handle all of the ground arrangements (if an ambulance is required), book the flight(s), and handle the minor details like check-in, tickets, luggage checking and handling, and wheelchair security.  We will also secure all of the necessary equipment and medications that are typically allowed onboard commercial airliners. To better care for your needs, we can also communicate with your doctor to obtain a health report and history.

Our medical escorts' work does not stop when the plane lands and you are safely transferred to your holiday destination or, why not, the care of the medical team at your destination. They will make certain that you are at ease in your new surroundings and will also keep in touch with your doctors to ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible.

It should be noted, however, that medical escorts have a limited scope of action. Our medical escorts carry an emergency backpack, allowing them to deal with some of the likeliest complications. However, there may be other complications that they may not be able to deal with. 

This is why, for passengers travelling in wheelchairs and requiring special care on long-distance flights, chartering an air ambulance may be the best option.

Medical Repatriation UK’s air ambulances

With years of experience as an air ambulance specialist, our staff are experts in medical and aerospace long-distance patient transportation. Our clients include patients from all walks of life. We coordinate bedside-to-bedside transports in order to provide them with the most seamless and smooth trip possible.

We will consult with the patient and their family to determine the health professional and specific medical equipment required on board, as well as the type of air ambulance transfer service required.

We arrange for an ambulance or wheelchair van to pick up patients at their initial bedside at the hospital, home, or facility.

Upon landing, we arrange for the patient to be loaded onto a waiting ground ambulance and transported to the receiving hotel.

Throughout the medical transportation process, the patient's loved ones are kept informed.

Any further questions?

Learn more about our medical escort services in our FAQ section.

Contact us now!

Allow one of our flight coordinator medical transportation experts assist you in arranging a worry-free air ambulance transfer. You can also request a free, non-binding quote by: