Planning your trip
We've prepared a checklist, below, of things we believe are essential and you need to take into consideration.
Contact your doctor about:
- ensuring that you have all the prescriptions you will need for the duration of your trip (take some extras in case of emergencies),
- all the medical equipment you might need, and any spare parts you might need,
- recommendations for any non-prescription medications such as pain killers, sun lotion, laxatives, spare glasses etc.,
- how to get medical assistance while you are travelling. Contact details for nearby hospitals etc., emergency telephone numbers and contact
- details to quality of health care institutions in the country you are visiting.
Contact your travel agent about:
- what special assistance you can expect from the hotel, tour group etc. you plan to use while you are way,
- the possibility of car rental or prior reservation of seating on planes, coaches etc.,
- whether any special dietary needs will be met at hotels/ or restaurants at your destination,
- whether the hotel you intend to stay at has toilets suited to disabled travellers,
- the possibility of renting a car suitable for the transportation of disabled people or that a hands-control car will be available.
The Day of Flying
On the day of flying always arrive as early as possible. Even if you are embarking on a long-haul flight, leave some extra time to organise all the formalities at the airport.
If you have a connecting flight, keep it in mind that you will most probably be the last to leave the plane, and that this could be a problem if you have any tight connecting flights because you will need to wait to collect your wheelchair between flights. We suggest that you allow at least one hour to reach a connecting flight. Discuss this with your flight operator to make sure that all your travel connections run smoothly. Airlines are able to provide in-depth information about the layout and size of the airport, and information regarding provisions made for wheelchairs.
If you do have a tight connection, inform the airline so that they can arrange to get your wheelchair and luggage ready for collection as soon possible (first in line).
It is a good idea to remind one of the flight attendants near the end of your journey to radio ahead for a wheelchair to be ready for when you arrive. This can help save a bit of time.
Information about the aircraft
Access to detailed information, such as provision for disabled facilities, is essential when planning your flight. You should always check to see if there are any limitations to the aircraft itself, such as whether it will be able to accommodate your requirements. Consider the facilities you will need during. Does the aircraft have movable seats for wheelchairs, can your wheelchair be stored on the plane or in the cargo bay? Is there access to the toilet for disabled travellers.
Should airlines be unable to answer these queries immediately, they should be willing to collect all the necessary information and let you know as quickly as possible.
For travellers hard of hearing, airlines should provide all facilities by making available telecommunication devices such as loud speaker phones or text telephones.
A medical certificate is a statement of health from the traveller's doctor outlining that the passenger is capable of completing the flight without extra medical care.
Airlines shouldn't need to request a medical certificate, based solely on the fact that the traveller is disabled.
However, an airline may request a medical certificate in situations where there is reasonable concern that medical assistance will be necessary during the journey.
Passengers travelling with communicable diseases will need a medical certificate, to prove that the infection will not affect the airline's crew or any of the passengers during the flight.
The airline's priority is the safety of all its passengers, therefore, if a medical certificate cannot guarantee the safety of its passengers, then the airline can refuse to carry this passenger, only if the disease can be transmitted to others onboard during the flight.
A medical certificate should outline the conditions or precautions necessary to prevent the transmission of the disease. Airlines can only deny passage if it is unfeasible to meet these conditions.
Frequent travellers can obtain a "frequent traveller's medical card" outlining all the passenger's relevant conditions. It's worth getting a card such as this one as it will simplify travelling due to the fact that card holders are automatically given clearance to travel on the given airline.
In fact, it is a good idea to choose one or two airlines, you will be wanting to travel with, as the more you travel with them, the more they will able to accommodate your specific needs.
Just because you need to travel with oxygen, shouldn't need to restrict your opportunities to travel. It simply takes a little bit more planning. Travellers, who require oxygen for medical use are, unfortunately, subject to added costs, as you will be charged per canister. These costs vary between airline, but it can be quite expensive. Passengers need to contact the airline at least 48 hours prior to departure to advise the required flow rate, and to get full medical clearance.
Passengers can carry their own oxygen cylinders during the flight, however these cylinders must be empty with the intention of filling and using them at their destination. During check in, you will need to be able to prove to the staff that the oxygen canisters are empty. Oxygen canisters cannot be checked-in as luggage, however, they are also not taken to be part of the hand luggage allowance.
Protecting your wheelchair
In the unlikely event that your chair goes missing, as with all luggage, you should tag your chair with all your contact details, name, address, telephone number and hotel address at your destination. Ideally, you should also attach a photocopy of instructions regarding how to assemble and dismantle to your chair. If your chair requires any special equipment for disassembling, advise the airline in advance so that they accommodate your needs.
Remember, even if you are on hand to assist with the dismantling of your wheelchair before departure, it is highly unlikely that you will be present to assist with its re-assembly at your destination.
If you are travelling with a disability, it is vital to take out travel insurance not only to cover both your flights but the entire holiday period. If you are an EU citizen and are travelling within Europe, remember that you can receive basic emergency medical assistance for free if you carry an E111 form.
Never assume that the quality of health care will be the same abroad as you receive from your own medical specialist. Many insurance policies sold by tour operators do not cover individuals with pre-existing medical conditions.
Importantly, make sure that your travel insurance policy covers any specialist equipment you may be travelling with, such as your wheelchair. In the event that your chair is stolen or damaged, insurance should cover full replacement.
Discuss your needs with your travel insurer and find a policy which provides the necessary cover.