Airports are big, busy, complicated places.
If you are elderly or get easily lost or turned around, wheelchair assistance at an airport is helpful.
If you are mobility challenged, then wheelchair assistance in an airport is often the only way you would be able to reach the departure gate on time.
For those of us wheelchair-bound, getting wheelchair assistance at the airport is a necessity. Even if you are healthy and fit enough to wheel yourself down those miles of airport corridors, you wouldn’t be able to do so and tote your luggage, too.
What’s the best time to book wheelchair assistance at an airport?
Do it right when you are booking a flight.
So, when you book your flight or have your travel agent book your flight, indicate to the airline’s customer service representative.
They will put an “Add Special Assistance” note in your reservation.
The departure, arrival, and transfer airports information will also be recorded.
The airline will then provide wheelchair assistance at each point on your trip.
It is crucial to book wheelchair assistance at the airport as soon as possible.
Be sure to request wheelchair assistance at an airport at least 48 hours before your trip.
Getting a wheelchair after arriving at the airport is not an easy task at all.
It is always wise to request wheelchair assistance at an airport even earlier.
Who is Eligible for a Flight Wheelchair Assistance?
Anyone who self-identifies as disabled to airport personnel is entitled to ask for a wheelchair facility in flights for moving throughout the airport.
However, airlines use four designations to determine which type of wheelchair or cart assistance is needed.
10 Easy Steps to Arranging Wheelchair Assistance at the Airport
Step #1: Find out what is Available
Know what is available for passengers who require wheelchair assistance at the airport.
Whether you are a passenger, the parent of a passenger, the child of a passenger, or a travel companion of a passenger who requires wheelchair assistance, you can arrange wheelchair assistance/wheelchairs in airports.
Wheelchair assistance for parents is a common arrangement made by children, grandchildren, or friends of an elderly traveler.
Step #2: Get Documentation
Ask your doctor or physiotherapist to write a letter outlining the level of assistance you require because of your mobility challenges.
Share with your doctor the mobility classifications used by airlines and airports.
Have your doctor describe why you fit one of those classifications.
Step #3: Check Airline Accessibility Policy
Before you make an airline reservation, check the wheelchair and passengers with mobility clauses on the airline website.
Look for the airline’s accessibility policy and wheelchair option in flights.
Or, have your travel agent check into which airline it would be best for you to book, given your healthcare needs.
Step #4: Make Your Booking
At the time of booking your flight, have your travel consultant book special needs.
Or, if you are booking online, review the airline’s policy on accessibility.
Look specifically at the wheelchairs section.
Find the type of chair you are using to travel.
I like to use my manual wheelchair at the airport.
I choose to have this one because I like the control—and exercise—of a manual chair.
Manual chairs are also a lot easier to get into and out of bathrooms.
Given my limited motoring skills, it is safer for pedestrians around me not to travel in a power chair or scooter.
Step #5: Inform the Airline of Your Needs
Well, in advance of your flight, make your needs known to the airline. Know the four levels of wheelchair assistance as outlined by airlines classifications.
Refer to these classifications, so you and airline personnel are on the same page.
Check with the airline’s customer service and be very specific about the assistance you need.
Tell the representative if you want to use handicap assistance at the airport.
Inform them if you need to use equipment to board the plane.
Find out if you can bring your wheelchair on board.
Be accurate about your name, flight number, flight location and destination, departure and return date, and assistance needs.
Step #6: Contact Airport Accessibility
Check to see what options for individuals who require wheelchair assistance in the airport itself.
Airline personnel is available to meet the special needs of mobility-challenged passengers.
Sometimes—as in Atlanta and Toronto airports—the airport has personnel moving around the airport ready to respond to customer needs as they appear.
Other times, the airport wants to know about your special mobility needs in advance so they can have someone ready to meet you with the equipment you need.
Be sure to inform airport public relations representatives well in advance of your flight.
Note the date, time, and the name of the person to whom you spoke.
Ask for a follow-up email confirming your request.
If you need a wheelchair at the terminal, arrange assistance at the airport by calling the airport to make your reservation.
Contact the accessibility department to arrange for your individual needs.
Step #7: Check and Double-Check
Don’t assume everything is fine and arrangements are in place.
Call the airport and airline customer service departments at least a week before your flight to confirm arrangements.
Remind each of the people to whom you spoke and what the arrangements were.
In both cases, note the name, date and time of the confirmation.
Ask for a follow-up email confirming your request.
Step #8: The Night Before
The night before your flight, gather your paperwork.
Take along your boarding pass, the letter from your doctor, and all the email confirmations you received from airport and airline public relations personnel.
Make sure you carry phone numbers and names of airport and airline public relations representatives if there is a breakdown in communications regarding your mobility needs.
Step #9: Show up Early
On the day of your flight, be sure to show up early to ensure your reservation and special arrangements make sense.
Airport public relations personnel, you, and your airline want to ensure that wheelchair assistance at the airport makes your trip smooth and stress-free.
When you arrive at the airport, it is important that you self-identify as a passenger with a disability needing assistance.
The airline should have noted in your reservation that you need assistance.
But, remember, the airline will not know that you are the person who requested that assistance if you tell them your name and flight.
Show them the email correspondence between you and the airline.
Step #10: On the Plane
On the airplane, be sure to tell flight attendants that you need assistance.
Be specific about the help you need, such as storing/retrieving your carry-on luggage, movement to and from bathrooms, assistance getting off the plane, or other assistance during the flight.
Frequently Asked Questions about Wheelchair Assistance at an Airport
Do people with disabilities board First?
Most airlines allow individuals with disabilities and medical conditions to board before others.
However, there is no Federal requirement for making passengers with disabilities board the airplane first.
Can an airline ask what my disability is?
An airline representative, such as a gate or ticket counter clerk, cannot ask the person about the nature or severity of their disability.
Most of the questions about disabilities asked during the booking process are prohibited by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA).
In most cases, airline staff is permitted to inquire about the person’s capacity to do specified air travel-related activities, such as boarding, deplaning, or walking through the airport terminal.
Do airlines charge for wheelchair assistance?
In the USA, UK, and Canada, there is no charge for Wheelchair Assistance, which includes a wheelchair and an attendant.
Except for some parts of Asia, they charge about $150 for wheelchair facilities on flights.
How does a disabled person board a plane?
The aisle chair is used for disabled persons to board a plane.
An aisle chair is a special wheelchair designed to make it easy for disabled people to get up and onto their flight.
They are specifically designed to fill the gap between the plane seat and the jet bridge floor.
How do I handle airport security if I am in a wheelchair?
In many cases being in a wheelchair expedites the process. People in wheelchairs or with disabilities often board a plane first.
In many cases, they can also skip the security line in American airports or roll through customs and security faster.
Are airplane bathrooms wheelchair accessible?
Unfortunately, most airplane bathrooms are not wheelchair accessible. Many do not have a conventional sink and toilet – you need to ask a flight attendant for assistance when you use the bathroom.
Only Air Canada provides actual wheelchair-accessible washrooms on board.
This means you can use the sink, toilet and access adjacent stalls.
How much should I tip for wheelchair assistance at the airport?
While the wheelchair assistance is free, the individual who accompanies the chair deserves a tip.
Wheelchair attendants who take travelers from point to point should be tipped.
Airport wheelchair assistance tips should be at least $2.
If the wheelchair attendant takes you to the restroom or does other extras, then your tip should be $5 or $10.
How does wheelchair assistance work at the airport?
The wheelchair assistance staff at the airport will meet you at your gate or any other predetermined meeting spot at the airport.
They’ll ask if they can help you in any way, and they’ll wheel your luggage if you allow them to. You might have to show a government ID such as a driver’s license before they transport you.
The airline will provide you with an aisle chair and assist you to your seat. At the end of the flight, they will return your wheelchair to you.
How to book wheelchair assistance in Emirates?
Emirates wheelchair assistance can be requested at the time you make your flight booking.
This can be done through your travel agent, an Emirates ticket office, over the phone.
Once you’ve booked your wheelchair-accessible flight, please contact your local office to notify them that you’re traveling with a wheelchair and need wheelchair assistance.
You can find Emirates all local office phone numbers here: Local Emirates Office.
This needs to be done at least 48 hours before your flight departs.
What does Emirates wheelchair assistance cost?
Emirates at ADA provide wheelchair assistance to all passengers on request, free of charge.
Passengers who are considered “ADA Compliant” will need to advise the airline when they make their booking so that the gate agents can inform them about their designated time for boarding and what to do with mobility devices if needed.
Registering your wheelchair at your local Emirates office at least 2 days before your flight will help you make sure all your paperwork is in order.
By helping them out, they’ll be able to provide you with a smoother and more enjoyable trip!
How do I request a wheelchair on Southwest Airlines?
You can request southwest wheelchair assistance using the “Special Assistance” link on the Passenger & Payment Info page.
When you book online, you may see a link (identified with an italicized “i“) that directs you to southwest policies on how they help disabled passengers.
Then scroll down and complete your booking process.
If your reservation is made already, go to the “Manage Reservations” section, input your required information, and click on the “Search” button.
Click the “Special Assistance” link under your name from that page. After adding your options, you should click “Update Information.”
If you’re traveling with your electric wheelchair, you’ll need to let Southwest know at least 48 hours in advance.
How do I get wheelchair assistance on American Airlines?
When you or your travel agent books a flight on American Airlines, select the “special assistance required” tab.
Fill out your passenger details and click on: “Request wheelchair service.”
An organizer of special assistance will reach you before you take your flight if you request special assistance during your reservation to ensure that the medical documentation or requests are complete.