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.