Your Complete Accessible Guide For Taking Your Wheelchair On A Flight

Most countries are starting to re-open its borders and make traveling possible again. I myself do not plan to travel abroad for the time being due to health concerns. But maybe for you, it may already be an option to travel again. That is why I want to share the following steps on how to fly safely with your powerchair! You can also read my routine for planning accessible trips in this article.

#1 – Details about your chair

First, it is important to know the details of your wheelchair. When booking your flight ticket you often have to indicate what kind of batteries are in your wheelchair. Are they dry batteries? Then it is often not a problem. If there are other types of batteries in it, you should discuss the options. They also always want to know the weight of your wheelchair in order to determine the distribution in the aircraft. The dimensions are also important, especially the height. So they can find out if the chair can be tilted or positioned directly at the flight hold.

#2 – Prepare your chair

If you have provided all the details of your wheelchair to the airline, and they have agreed to take your chair, it is time to prepare your wheelchair for it. The specific way of preparing your wheelchair depends on what type you have exactly. I myself have the Permobil M5 and this is a fairly common wheelchair.

  • Make sure that if your chair gets damaged, you know where to go to fix it.
  • Always take an extra inner and outer tire with you as a precaution.
  • It is also important to know how you can best protect the joystick in the flight hold.
  • It is also useful to know whether the backrest can be lowered or folded.

Folding your backrest can be useful to lower the height of your chair. All preparatory tips can be found in the following PDF document provided by Permobil.

#3 – At the airport

Before leaving, have your wheelchair fully charged and the charger packed. Also, take photos of the condition of your wheelchair before departure. If something happens to the wheelchair, you can demonstrate that there was nothing wrong before departure. It is possible to take your wheelchair to the gate, but often you have to put in some effort to make this happen. It would always be advisable to ensure that your wheelchair goes with you to the gate because you can make sure that your wheelchair won’t end up somewhere randomly.

At the time of boarding, everything will be rushed and chaotic. But don’t be distracted by this, because this is the most important time to pack your wheelchair safely. If possible, remove the backrest or fold it. And make sure that you have safely packed or removed the joystick. I wrap it with bubble wrap myself because mine doesn’t come off easily. If the wheelchair is properly packed as desired, you have to make sure that the power of your wheelchair is off. Sometimes you can do this by turning off the power button on the back. But if your wheelchair does not have this button, you can buy the Airsafe plug which also switches off the power.

From here the employees will take over your wheelchair and place it in the flight hold. Make sure you have this document (or a similar document) on your wheelchair with contact details in case of problems. I prepared this document myself and made it available to you because it is incredibly important in such situations. If possible, make sure you personally explain how the brakes of your wheelchair work. From this moment on you have no control over this and it is best to let go. Enjoy your flight!

#4 – At your destination

Hopefully, you had a good flight and you didn’t worry too much about your wheelchair. Now that you have arrived at your destination, you often have to wait on the plane until everyone has left the plane. When your wheelchair has arrived, it is important to pay attention to whether there are any damages. If this is the case, you must indicate this immediately. Once you have left the airport, you can no longer hold anyone liable. So please make sure to check this before leaving the airport.

Sometimes it takes a long time before your wheelchair arrives, but don’t be rushed by this. They may ask if you want to leave the plane so that they can continue. But this is not mandatory, so I will certainly stay on the plane until you have your wheelchair. This is one of your rights.

A lot of information huh? Traveling by plane in a wheelchair is not the easiest thing out there. Hopefully, they’ll come up with something in the future, so we can sit in our wheelchairs while on the flight. But it has to be this way up until then. After reading this whole load of information, I understand that you may have your doubts. But the purpose of this post is to fully prepare for what’s to come. But it doesn’t always go wrong, it usually goes well. When things go wrong, it’s important to be prepared, but you don’t have to be totally stressed out. Don’t forget to have some fun too!

If you have any questions or would like to have the documents in another language, please send me a message via the contact form on the contact page.

My 4-Steps Routine Of Accessible Trip Planning

Today let’s talk about my personal routine for planning a trip. It is quite a complicated process that takes a lot of time. Planning takes more time than the actual trip, but it’s worth it for me. Maybe I plan too much, but I don’t want to end up somewhere where it’s not accessible enough. 

Step 1 – Ask Google 
The first step in this process is asking Google what the best destination is in a particular month. My muscles can’t handle cold weather, unfortunately, so I have to go to a warm country. 
 
For example, when is the best time to visit Lisbon?
 
The best time to visit Lisbon is either from March to May or September to October, because the weather is still warm, hotel rates are cheaper and there are fewer crowds than in summer. In those seasons, you might also be able to squeeze in a few beach days. The summer sees hot temperatures and crowded shores.First hit on Google 

“Nothing develops intelligence like travel.” – Emile Zola

Step 2 – Find accessible accommodation 
Some of the most challenging things is to find accessible accommodation. I typically check for accommodation with the wheelchair accessible filter activated at Booking.com. Before booking, I’ll check Google for the email address and mail the accommodation directly.

I’ll ask for the wheelchair accessible bedroom and bathroom, including pictures and measurements. I will decide for myself, after receiving this information, whether it’s good enough. Then, I’ll check the availability but I’m not going to make the actual booking yet. First, I’m going to have to search for flights.

Sometimes I also check websites for accessible accommodation. My favorite ones are (I will update this list regularly) :

Step 3 – Search for adapted transportation
This is also an important step in the process, but not the most important one. First, I’ll do some research on public transportation in the city.

I will always use public transportation rather than taxi services if that’s available. Why? Because it’s cheaper and you can leave when you want. You will not need to make an appointment to meet at any given time. You are independent!

If this is not accessible, I’ll search for an adapted (accessible) transportation company. Then I’ll contact them and ask for details and prices. Sometimes there are more companies in one city, then make sure you ask each one of them.

Accessible public transportation in Tenerife

Step 4 – Find flights
Last but not least, finding a flight. For this part, I will use Sky scanner or just simply Google. If I go on a trip inside Europe, I’d preferably book by Transavia, They’re cheap and the service for people with reduced mobility (PRM) is just great. 

It is important to book your airport assistance at the same time as booking the flight otherwise, you might be too late. If you need medical baggage, use a wheelchair or other medical equipment, make sure you report this to your airline in time. And always make sure that you arrive at the airport on time. In another post, I described step-by-step how to take your wheelchair with you on a flight.

After researching and accomplishing all these steps, I will book the flight and hotel at the same time. Then afterward, if needed, I will book the adapted transportation.

If you are considering travel insurance, which is highly recommended, don’t wait too long. Most travel insurance companies won’t allow you to buy insurance if you booked your trip longer than 7 days ago.