Make the airline aware if you will be travelling with your own wheelchair
In most instances, the wheelchair will travel in the hold, so it’s helpful for the airline to be made aware beforehand if you will be travelling with your own wheelchair. Airlines are required to carry your wheelchair free of charge.
Notifying the airline that you will be travelling with a wheelchair is particularly important if you use an electric wheelchair with spillable batteries. These batteries are a hazardous material so airlines will have strict requirements on how or if these can be transported. The minimum requirement is that spillable batteries would need to be detached from wheelchair itself.
Book additional assistance well in advance
If you book online or over the phone, wheelchair assistance can usually be booked at the time of making your flight reservation.
However, if you have already made the flight booking but not assistance, you can normally find the ‘wheelchair assistance’, ‘disability and mobility assistance’ or ‘special assistance’ option under “Manage my booking” or similar on the airline’s website, or simply ring them up and ask.
If are not able to get into and out of a wheelchair on your own, the airline may require you to travel with a companion as well.
Please note that you must book this service through the airline, not the airport, and most airlines ask for a minimum of 48 hours notice.
Arrive at the airport early
If you are making use of the airport’s wheelchair assistance service, ensure you arrive well in advance of your flight. Sometimes these services can be extremely busy and the airport may only have a limited number of people allocated so you may find that you have to wait.
Most airports are also able to offer help getting to and from parking areas, for example Heathrow has various help points in the car parks, and if you ring from one of these points, they can send someone to collect you. This varies from airport to airport so it’s worth having a look on the website of the airport you will be travelling from before deciding whether to get a lift or where to park your car.
Check-in online and reserve your seat near the door, aisle or loo (or all three!) early. If you can, it’s worth paying for your seat reservation so you can choose a seat which suits your needs and eliminate the need for any ‘shuffling’ on the day.
Bring a walking stick or cane
If you are able to walk a short distance, you may be asked to walk short distances (e.g. along the aisle of the aeroplane or from the gate to the aeroplane if it’s a short distance). Especially for long haul flights, the aisle can be quite long and narrow!