Using powered wheelchairs certainly doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice on travel. Powered wheelchairs offer greater independence for users, rather than restrictions. For those travelling with the aid of powerchairs, however, holidays abroad can seem rather daunting. But, with a little preparation, wheelchair travel can prove much easier than you might think. We’re sharing our wheelchair travel tips to ensure your holiday goes as smoothly as riding around in said powered wheelchairs…
Prior preparation is essential for those requiring accessible travel. Before deciding on your chosen airline, we suggest shopping around for the best offers and testimonials on their policies for accommodating travellers in powered wheelchairs. Today, airlines and airports offer accessible travel, but it’s always worthwhile doing the research to ensure you book a holiday with the most reputable brand. Every airline should be able to share wheelchair travel tips, such as the weight of wheelchairs and particular models that fall under their limits.
Book over the phone
It may be easier to book online, but direct communication is much better for those requiring accessible travel. Booking over the phone, or directly through a travel agent, allows you to speak to someone about your condition and advise them you will be travelling with your powerchair. Airlines and airports may provide different accessibility options, and ground staff and gate agents must be informed of the dimensions of the powerchairs and how best to lift to avoid damage. The agents will, likely, ask for any other particular requirements and discuss the process for wheelchair travel.
As mentioned above, it’s easier to book via an agent or over the phone. However, if you do book online, you shouldn’t worry that your trip is doomed. When you do reserve airline tickets, however, speak to the company regarding your needs so they can inform their staff. Doing so will, hopefully, mean the airline staff are already prepared before you board, and you don’t have to waste valuable holiday time while they check your powerchair. Upon arrival, they will be able to quickly check the specifications of the motorised wheelchair, and perhaps provide you with a folding powerchair if necessary.
Similarly, it’s important to relay the weight specifications of the powered wheelchairs, as the company must ensure it accounts for the plane’s overall weight limit. If a powered wheelchair does arrive for a flight without prior arrangement, they could refuse on the grounds it would surpass the specified weight limit.
Powered wheelchairs on the plane
As stated on the government website, powered wheelchairs cannot be taken onto the passenger cabin of the plane. The powerchair will be stored in the hold, so you must speak with the airline beforehand for answers on the assistance they will provide – particularly for those with reduced mobility. Cargo holds do vary in size, and you don’t want to be surprised when you turn up for your holidays to find the motorised wheelchair does not fit. For those travelling on a Boeing 737, for instance, the cargo door height stands at 35” and the width at 48”.
You should also alert the airline if you are taking a battery powered wheelchair as soon as possible, as the battery may need to be removed before storing the chair. If the battery is labelled as non-spillable and is secured, you will not need to remove it. However, any batteries suffering a little damage or leaking will likely be asked to remove.
Folding powered wheelchairs
When it comes to compact and impressive functionality, you’ll not find much better than folding electric wheelchairs. If you are looking for ease of wheelchair travel and are in the market for new powerchairs, we suggest taking a look at these options. They are high-quality and durable, and easy to fold. Therefore, your powerchairs are less likely to suffer any damage when placed in the hold.
For those that aren’t using folding powered wheelchairs and are unsure how you disassemble, contact your local wheelchair supplier or even manufacturer who should be able to point you in the right direction. It’s also important to note that powerchairs with adjustments – such as a reclining seat back – may require more disassembly.
Speaking of damage, it is one of the main causes of concern for those looking into wheelchair travel tips. Accidents involving damages to wheelchairs during flights are, thankfully, very rare, but it’s best to be prepared. Always ensure your travel insurance covers your powerchair, and speak to the airline on how they intend to protect your chair.
Before your powered wheelchair is placed in the hold, remove any loose objects that could cause damage during take-off and landing. These attachments could include cushions, cup holders, footrests, bags and any others, and take them onto the plane with you.
It’s also important to remember that airline staff are not experts when it comes to handling powerchairs, and you should attach instructions on how to handle your chair. Particularly important in these instructions are the details on how to power on/off, how it should be lifted and, subsequently, stored. When it does come to disassembling your powered wheelchair, bring the right tools for the job. That way, you’ve done all you can to prevent any damage.
Once your wheelchair is stowed, you are ready to go. Another one of our wheelchair travel tips would be to book transportation at the other end ahead of time. You don’t want to be navigating public transport in your wheelchair after such a journey. It’s your holiday, and time to relax.