Flying with disabilities: what do you need to know?
Travelling can be stressful for everyone. If you have disabilities of any kind, travelling can feel like even more of an added pressure. Heading to the airport, then travelling from a car park or bus stop to the main terminal, getting through departures lugging heavy cases, making your way through security - all of these things are enough to put you off planning a trip abroad. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Nowadays, airports across the world are incredibly well prepared when it comes to having provisions in place to make sure that travelling is as safe and comfortable as possible for all travellers. Here we’ve rounded up some things to consider if you, or someone you’re travelling with, suffers from any disabilities.
At the airport
Thanks to European legislation, special assistance is available at all EU airports, with facilities on hand at most major airports around the world. This legislation means that it is the responsibility of your chosen airline once you board the aircraft, but airports are responsible for making sure that everyone can travel through the airport itself safely and comfortably.
Different airports have different facilities, so it’s a good idea to check in advance if your departure airport has the services you require. There are however many standard assistance facilities typically available at all of them, such as toilets with disabled access.
Heathrow Airport advises that you can find Help Points in some of their car parks, as well as in the terminal areas both before and after security. Gatwick Airport has a number of assistance desks located throughout the airport, with reserved seating for you to use while you wait. You can also find help call points on routes within the airport that have long walking distances - check out the handy guide to walking distances at Gatwick Airport for more information on how far you might have to walk.
Check with your airline
It’s a good idea to get in touch with the airline you’re flying with at least 48 hours before you depart in order to request special assistance for your journey. Easyjet says that there are different levels of assistance available depending on your requirements, from those who are hearing impaired or are partially sighted, to those who require wheelchair assistance through the airport, onto the aircraft and into an aircraft seat.
Many airlines also advise that they will allocate a suitable seat for you without charge if you let them know about your special requirements at the time of your booking. British Airways, Easyjet, Ryanair and many other popular airlines all have similar free systems for reserving your seat if you have specific requirements - just make them aware of your requirements when you book.
On the plane
Depending on the level of assistance you require, passengers who require special assistance are able to get help right into their seat on the plane. You can’t however, take your own wheelchair into the passenger cabin of a plane - it will be stored in the hold with the luggage. There are provisions in place if you need assistance getting to your seat, so speak to your airline in advance of your departure date to find out what help they’ll provide when you come to boarding. If you do want to take a mobility aid, wheelchair or battery powered wheelchair on your flight with you then you should tell your airline as soon as possible.
If your disabilities mean that you are not self-reliant then you will need to travel with a companion when you fly. This includes if you cannot eat, take medication or use the toilet without assistance. Again, try to let the airline you are flying with know with as much notice as possible; they will do their best to make sure you are sitting next to each other.
For more information on travelling with disabilities, including resources for parents of children with disabilities, check out our guide to air travel for disabled or reduced mobility passengers. Alternatively, if you have any questions about special requirements using any of our airport parking services then give one of our friendly team members a call.