Air travel tips for families travelling with a special needs or mobility impaired person

Automobility is pleased to partner with Hertz to create a fleet of wheelchair accessible rental vehicles that are available at many popular holiday destinations across Australia for those in wheelchairs or with mobility devices who like to travel and deserve time away! Any travelling takes a lot of planning, and travelling with a wheelchair can present unique obstacles. We have catalogued some ways to best prepare for air travel with a wheelchair or mobility device.

Travelling with a disabled adult or child

1. Prepare in advance

Airports are required by law to assist passengers with a disability or special needs with a variety of travel-related tasks. This means that you can expect trained staff to assist you with:

  • Getting around
  • Getting on and off the plane
  • Getting to and from the plane bathrooms
  • Opening packages and identifying food
  • Delivering safety briefings in an understandable way

Make sure you advise your travel agent at the time of booking that you use a mobility device, and approach the airline staff when you arrive for their assistance with these tasks. It is your right to be provided with assistance with any of the points above, so don’t be afraid to ask the airline how they plan to assist you, and choose the best airline. Be aware that staff cannot help you with using the bathroom in the airport or plane, administering medication, or lifting a passenger, and plan for these tasks if they become necessary.

Be sure to plan to have your medication in your hand luggage so it can be used during the flight or airport wait, with a doctor’s note to show to customs if necessary. Investigate pressure sore solutions for long flights, and keep sanitary items at hand. Some wheelchair users have recommended having disassembly and pack-down instructions attached to the wheelchair, so that when it is stowed, the flight crew can do so easily and without damage. For families with children who use a mobility device, it can assist the child if you bring along familiar, calming items, or entertainment (such as a tablet) to help pass the time and manage stress. Some families recommend making use of the aisle wheelchair (the specialised wheelchair for use in the narrow aisles of the aeroplane) to move about and change position to assist with restlessness.

2. Discuss your needs with the airline when booking

When making your booking, make sure to call your airline and make them aware of your unique mobility needs. Most airlines are very understanding and accommodating, and will understand issues such as: needing space to avoid pressure sores, assistance to reach the bathroom, provision of special wheelchairs to get down the narrow aeroplane aisles and wheelchair storage.

Make sure that you can explain the weight and dimension of your mobility device to the airline, as they may not carry certain types of mobility devices, or may have a weight limit or extra charges for certain devices. Shop around for the best airline and price for your mobility device needs. Remember your rights, and ask for the assistance that you are entitled to. Some airlines are only required by law to carry two passengers at a time with a wheelchair, so make sure you ask if there are any other passengers with a wheelchair travelling at the same time as you, or make them aware if you have more than two passengers in wheelchairs planning to travel together.

Airlines are also required to carry certified service dogs, so make them aware of the weight of the dog and who the handler of the animal is if you will travel with your service dog.

3. Plan extra time

Many airlines will not allow you to use your own mobility device while in the airport, and ask you to check it with your checked baggage. This will mean that it can take extra time to get around the airport, and make a difference to how you get around during stopovers. Make sure you plan when you might need to use the bathroom, where they are, and how to get there. If you travel with a battery operated wheelchair, some airlines may ask you to check in earlier than other passengers to accommodate your mobility device on the aeroplane. Note that children may need extra items to entertain themselves and pass the time if extra waiting in the airport is necessary. Again, your airline should assist you with mobility items around the airport, and assistance in getting to the plane, even at stopovers. You may be required to undergo a manual security scan, as the security scanners do not work with wheelchair users. You are allowed to ask that this take place in private, with a companion of your choice with you.

With a bit of extra planning, air travel is an excellent way to see the world and get away from home for mobility device and wheelchair users.

At Automobility, we are passionate about making sure people with special needs have access to the vehicles and items that they need to be able to travel, and see where the road takes them. That’s why we have partnered with Hertz to provide wheelchair converted hire vehicles in popular Australian holiday destinations.

If you are interested in these hire vehicles, or a wheelchair conversion vehicle for your family, please contact us.

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