Boarding and exiting the aircraft
Trained staff should be ready to assist you when boarding and exiting the aircraft.
If the traveller has a connecting flight, the airline delivering the individual is responsible for assisting in the movement of the traveller to the connecting flight. Airlines usually give disabled travellers priority in boarding the aircraft.
On aircrafts with 100 seats or more, space in the cabin is guaranteed for the passenger's wheelchair. If the plane has more than one aisle, then at least one toilet with disabled-access should be available. If passengers contact their airline and are able to produce documentation of being able to use facilities not adapted specifically for disabled passengers, such facilities should be made available.
On board Medical Assistance
On board medical assistance will always be available during a flight, though the level of this assistance will depend on the carrier and type of journey.
The majority of international flights have a set procedure for dealing with medical incidents during the flight, and cabin crew are trained to deal with these incidents. Larger planes on long-haul flights have first-aid kits, and a medical kit which can only be used by a trained medical practitioner or other qualified persons to treat in-flight emergencies.
Airlines can legally refuse travellers who are unable to look after their own needs during the flight, so it is essential to ensure that you travel with a competent attendant to help you.
Unfortunately, this is also the case for travellers confined to wheelchairs who cannot transfer, on their own, from their wheelchair to their seat or toilet seat and vice versa. We recommend that you contact the airline in advance in order to receive detailed information with regards to this issue.
As a general rule, airlines require that an attendant, who is responsible for the traveller is on hand, if the passenger is travelling on a stretcher or in an incubator.
If the passenger suffers from a mobility impairment to such an extent that it hinders their ability to evacuate the aircraft, then the airline may also request that they travel with an attendant.
Similarly, if the traveller suffers from severe hearing, vision or developmental impairments which may hinder their ability to respond to cabin-crew instructions in an emergency; airlines may require the passenger to travel with an attendant.
If the airline will not provide an attendant, then the accompanying attendant will have to pay for the flight. It is a good idea to discuss the situation with the airline in advance, as some airlines are more conducive to providing free flights for attendants.
Always check ahead to see whether you are required to fly with an attendant.
Flying with a wheelchair & other mobility aids
Airlines, in line with FAA safety regulations, are required to allow travellers needing mobility-assisting devices the possibility of carrying such items .
These devices will not be included in the passenger's hand luggage weight allowance. Smaller items such as canes and lighter wheel chairs, may be stored on board the passenger section of the aircraft.
Always book your flight as early as possible. This will not only save you money, but it will give you plenty of time to inform the airline that you are flying with a wheelchair.
When booking, inform the airline that you are travelling with a wheelchair, so that they reserve you an aisle chair, making it easier to get in and out of your wheelchair.
If you are taking a particularly long flight, and will be unable to walk to the toilets, then it is essential that you reserve an aisle seat.
Most planes have designated areas for folding wheelchairs, or its parts. These items have priority on board over other passengers' hand luggage, as long as the passenger boarding the aircraft is not already carrying disabled passengers from an earlier leg (ie. During refeulling stops).
Wheelchairs and other mobility-assisting devices are always given priority and will always be the first items to be unloaded from the aircraft. They will be returned to the passenger as soon as possible and as close to the door of the aircraft as they can - in line with regulations.
If the wheelchair is too large to be stowed in the passenger area of the plane and will need to be disassembled for the duration of the flight, then the airline is responsible for returning the chair in its original condition.
Further regulations exist in the case of electric chairs. An electric wheelchair will be carried in line with rules regarding the transport of hazardous materials. This is because the battery is considered to be a hazard.
Spillable batteries must be removed completely, unless the wheelchair is going to be stored upright during the flight and the battery is attached to the wheelchair.
Non-spillable batteries do not need to be removed, unless it is found that the battery is damaged and leakage of battery fluid is possible.
It is the airline's responsibility to determine whether a battery is spillable or non-spillable. It is important to remember that airlines cannot charge for the packing of batteries.
Flying in a stretcher
Larger, international airlines, can cater for passengers on stretchers, however, these passengers will need to fly with medical supervision.
Unfortunately, these stretchers take up more space. This means that 6-9 seats will need to be purchased to cover the airline's cost of lost seating.
Of course, medical clearance is required, and it is recommended that you contact the airline as soon as possible to inform them that you will need to travel on a stretcher.
Flying with guide dogs
Flying with guide dogs, sometimes referred to as service dogs, will always be subject to quarantine laws, and will only be permitted to fly following clearance. Veterinary certification is essential.
An airline cannot deny access to a guide dog, if the animal has all the necessary identification and documentation. It's always a good idea to check with the airline to see what documentation is needed.
During the flight, guide dogs must follow a number of safety rules, such as, not obstructing aisles, which can be a hazard in emergency situations.
Once your guide dog has obtained all the necessary documentation, the dog should be carried at no additional expense. Guide dogs are not considered in the same category as flying with household pets.