Air travel if you are mobility impaired
If you have a mobility impairment, travelling by air can still be an enjoyable experience. The important thing is to plan ahead and let the airline know what help you will need from them.
Most airports publish information about airport facilities, including those for disabled and less mobile people. You can often get maps of airport terminal buildings, car parks and public transport station layouts from bus, coach and train companies.
Booking and advance notice
If you will need help, make sure you give the airline as much notice of this as you can. This way, the airline can plan ahead and have the right staff and/or equipment available at the right time and place for you.
Travelling by air may mean that even if you are normally independent you will need help. For example, if you have walking difficulties you may find that with the distances involved at the airport, you need to use a wheelchair or buggy to get to the gate.
Airports and airlines should do all that is reasonably possible to help and support you.
When you book your flight, check with the airline that they can carry your wheelchair or scooter. This is particularly important if you have a powered wheelchair or scooter.
Seating on board an aircraft has to meet air safety regulations. Because of this, you can't take your own wheelchair into the passenger cabin of a plane. It will be stored in the hold of the plane.
You should be able to stay in your own wheelchair until you reach the side of the plane. You will then need to transfer into an on-board chair to get on to the plane.
The point at which you will have to change chairs may vary between airports and will depend on what facilities and equipment are available for the staff to get your wheelchair to the aircraft.
If the plane is joined to the terminal building by an 'air-bridge' or tunnel, you should be able to stay in your own wheelchair right to the door of the plane, as there will be level entry into the passenger cabin.
If the plane is parked away from the terminal, passengers will have to use a flight of stairs to board. You will have to transfer into a boarding chair or on-board wheelchair at the departure gate, or on the ground outside the plane, or in the vehicle that you travelled to the plane in.
If your wheelchair has to be specially packed, you may need to transfer into an airport chair at check-in. This often applies to powered wheelchairs or scooters.
Before you travel, you should make sure your travel insurance provides good cover for your wheelchair.
Some airlines may ask you to prove why you need some facilities or services, like extra legroom. This helps them to give priority to those people who really need these facilities, which are often in limited supply.
Different airlines have different policies. The airline or travel agent will tell you when you book what information you need to provide.
Also, an airline is entitled to demand that a passenger travels with a companion if the passenger is not self-sufficient. To travel alone, you should be capable of moving from a passenger seat to an on-board wheelchair, as cabin crew are not allowed to lift passengers in and out of seats for health and safety reasons.