Getting a wheelchair at the airport

Modern air travel can be a stressful experience. Crossing the expanse of the airport concourse, navigating through the bustling crowds, rushing to catch your connecting flight: it’s hard enough for those who can walk freely and easily. But for individuals with mobility issues, it can be anxiety inducing and close to impossible.

Fortunately, all airlines flying into and out of the United States are required by law to provide wheelchair assistance to passengers who have difficulty walking. Whether you’ve suffered an injury, you’re recovering from surgery, or you have a chronic condition that impairs your ability to walk, airport wheelchair assistance services can help improve your travel experience and relieve the stress of flying.

Here are some tips on how to request a wheelchair at the airport, how to handle your own wheelchair, and what to expect from the process.

Request Wheelchair Assistance When Booking Your Flight

It’s important to let your airline know as soon as possible that you’re going to need a wheelchair during your journey. If you book your flight online, many airlines allow you to request wheelchair assistance simply by checking a box. A coordinator may contact you prior to your flight to arrange the details, but it’s always a good idea to follow up yourself with a phone call.

If you didn’t request wheelchair assistance at the time of booking, there’s no need to worry. You can often call the airline directly and request it as close to 48 hours prior to your departure – but the earlier you make the phone call, the better. Doing this will give the airline enough time to ensure there is a wheelchair available for you at both the origin and destination airports. To find the appropriate contact number for your airline, check out this list of special assistance hotlines.

Arrive Early on the Day of Your Flight

Most airlines require passengers needing wheelchair assistance to be checked in at least 30 minutes prior to boarding, so be sure you allow plenty of extra time at the airport before you take off. You’ll not only need to check in, check your bags, and go through security, but you may also need to check your wheelchair if you’re bringing one with you, since many airlines do not allow passengers to bring their personal wheelchairs into the cabin. Airline staff will often take it at the check-in counter, although some may accommodate gate-checking of personal assistance devices. The only way to know for sure is to contact your airline prior to departure.

A wheelchair attendant will meet you upon check-in and escort you to your departure gate. (It’s considered standard practice to tip wheelchair attendants, as many of them make below the minimum wage.) When the boarding process begins, you’ll most likely be one of the first groups to enter the plane. Be sure the attendant knows what your abilities and limitations are, so that he or she may be able to assist you into your airplane seat as efficiently and comfortably as possible.

What to Expect at Your Destination

After your flight lands, a wheelchair attendant will be waiting for you at your arrival gate. If you’re connecting to another flight, they should have that information and will escort you to your departure gate. Since they’re required to make any necessary pit stops at the restroom, be sure to let them know if you need it. However, they’re not required to stop anywhere else, so if you anticipate wanting a snack, it’s best to bring it with you.

Once you reach your final destination, you’ll be escorted to the baggage claim, where you can transfer to your own wheelchair, if you have one.

Rent Transport Wheelchairs at Avondale Home Medical Equipment

If you have mobility issues and plan to fly somewhere soon, consider renting a transport wheelchair from Avondale Home Medical Equipment. Our vast selection of lightweight, portable wheelchairs are perfect for short trips, and can be folded up effortlessly for easy storage.

To speak to one of our medical supply specialists about a transport wheelchair that’s right for you, call (623) 295-2724.