Air travel for disabled or reduced mobility passengers

Travelling by air with a disability or restricted mobility may seem daunting, with many potential complications to overcome. However, with some careful pre-planning you will be able to take advantage of a range of special airport assistance to help keep your trip running smoothly. 

Here we've gathered a range of tips and advice for flying with restricted mobility, as well as specific guidelines from individual airlines to help keep you in the know for your next getaway 

When booking

  • If you need help getting on the plane and to your seat, the EU law states that disabled and reduced mobility passengers have legal rights to assistance when travelling by air. You will need to request any necessary assistance when booking your ticket at least 48 hours prior to departure. 
  • Consider booking your trip through an experienced travel agency or a company specialising in disabled travel - their knowledge could be invaluable for ensuring your flight and accommodation needs are met. 
  • Toilets on planes are generally small and can be challenging for those with limited mobility, so for longer journeys you may want to consider taking shorter connecting flights rather than one long haul trip. 
  • Check whether you will require medical clearance before flying - particularly if you require oxygen.
  • Certified Assistance Dogs are permitted on most flights. See the table below for specific airline policies.
  • If you will be bringing a wheelchair you will need to provide your airline with as much information about it as possible, including dimensions, type of wheelchair, number of batteries, type of battery and weight. See the table below for each individual airline's policy on wheelchair and mobility aid allowances. 

 

Airline Mobility aid allowance Contact number
Air France Up to two pieces of mobility equipment per physically challenged passenger, including electric wheelchairs.

All aircraft are equipped with an onboard wheelchair.

All long haul aircraft are equipped with easy-access restrooms for passengers with reduced mobility.

Certified Assistance Dogs can travel free of charge in the aircraft cabin, unless they are too large to fit under the seat or at the passengers feet. If this is the case, the animal will need to travel in a kennel in the hold.
0871 226 6737
American Airlines Non-collapsible wheelchairs or scooters are acceptable as checked luggage for no charge.

Canes, walkers, CPAP machines and other assistive devices capable of being collapsed small enough to fit into approved overhead and under seat stowage areas are welcome and do not count toward your carry-on item limit.

One collapsible manual wheelchair is permitted in the cabin please let the airline know if this is required when you check in.

Certified Assistance Dogs can travel free of charge in the aircraft cabin, unless they are too large to fit under the seat or at the passengers feet. If this is the case, the animal will need to travel in a kennel in the hold. 
0844 499 7300
British Airways An unlimited number of mobility aids or wheelchairs can be placed in the hold in addition to your free baggage allowance.

One collapsible manual wheelchair is permitted in the cabin please let the airline know if this is required when you check in.

Certified Assistance Dogs can travel free of charge in the aircraft cabin. 
0844 493 0787
easyjet Up to two pieces of mobility equipment per physically challenged passenger, including electric wheelchairs, provided that the airport can provide the facilities to load/unload the device.

easyJet will not carry wheelchairs with un-sealed, spillable batteries.
Certified Assistance Dogs can travel free of charge in the aircraft cabin.
0843 104 5000
Emirates Non-collapsible wheelchairs, electric wheelchairs, and power scooters are accepted as checked baggage.

Storage is provided for one passenger's collapsible, manual wheelchair in the aircraft cabin on a first-come first-served basis.

Certified Assistance Dogs can travel free of charge as manifested cargo. Seeing-Eye Dogs may travel free of charge in the aircraft cabin. 
0844 800 2777
Flybe Up to two collapsible wheelchairs or one non-powered/non collapsible wheelchair or one electric wheelchair will be accepted as cargo.

Only mobility equipment powered by wet cell batteries will be accepted as cargo.

Currently, certified Assistance Dogs are only accepted on international routes from Birmingham, Exeter, Manchester, Newcastle and Southampton airports.
01392 683 152
KLM Up to two pieces of mobility equipment per physically challenged passenger, including electric wheelchairs.

One collapsible manual wheelchair is permitted in the cabin please let the airline know if this is required when you check in.

Certified Assistance Dogs can travel free of charge in the aircraft cabin. 
0871 231 0000
Qantas Group Up to two pieces of mobility equipment per physically challenged passenger, including electric wheelchairs.

Passengers may not take their own mobility aids into the aircraft cabin, but onboard wheelchairs are available on most aircraft.

Certified Assistance Dogs can travel free of charge in the aircraft cabin.
08457 747 767
Ryanair Up to two pieces of mobility equipment per physically challenged passenger, including electric wheelchairs, although due to space and weight restrictions only four electric wheelchairs or mobility scooters will be allowed per flight.

No wheelchairs are permitted to travel in the aircraft cabin.

Certified Assistance Dogs are accepted on all EU/EEA and domestic flights. They are not permitted on flights to or from Morocco.
 0871 2460 003
Thomson Airways One piece of mobility equipment including electric wheelchairs, per physically challenged passenger will be accepted as cargo in addition to the normal baggage allowance.

Assistance Dogs are permitted on many routes call for full details. 
0844 871 1600
United One piece of mobility equipment including electric wheelchairs, per physically challenged passenger will be accepted as cargo in addition to the normal baggage allowance.

One collapsible manual wheelchair is permitted in the cabin please let the airline know if this is required when you check in.

Certified Assistance Dogs can travel free of charge in the aircraft cabin.
0845 607 6760
Virgin Atlantic Mobility aids and collapsible wheelchairs may be carried onto the aircraft free of charge and if there is space can be taken into the cabin with you.

Powered wheelchairs or mobility aids are permitted in the hold, but restrictions apply - call for full details.

Assistance Dogs are permitted on many routes call for full details.

Flights to and from Orland or Miami from 1st June to 30 September.

Minimum cage size is 53cm x 40cm x 38cm
0844 412 4455

 

Travelling companions

There are certain cases in which disabled or reduced mobility travellers will be required to travel with a companion in order to fly. This is generally due to passenger limitations with regard to the comprehension and ability to carry out safety instructions or evacuation procedures. 

In order to fly alone the passenger must be able to do the following unaided: 

  • Lift themselves
  • Reach an emergency exit unaided
  • Communicate with the crew on safety matters
  • Unfasten a seat belt
  • Retrieve and fit a life jacketFit an oxygen mask


At the airport

  • Check in as early as possible to ensure you can secure the best seat for your needs. Be aware that, although emergency exit seats will allow for more space, the passengers sitting here may be required to open the door or aid others in the case of an emergency. 
  • Give yourself plenty of time to reach the airport and your departure gate with time to spare. Airlines generally recommend arriving two hours early for short haul flights and three hours early for long haul, but it may be worth arriving earlier than this to avoid delays. 
  • All passengers, including those with disabilities, are required to undergo security searches, although you can request a private room for additional privacy. You may wish to alert security staff of any specific medical needs prior to a security search. 
  • Wheelchair users will not need to pass through the metal detectors, but will instead be subject to a body search. Make sure to inform security of any painful or sensitive areas before they begin. 
  • If you wear a prosthesis it is worth carrying a letter from your doctor providing details for security in case any complications should arise. 

 

Resources for parents of children with disabilities

When you're the parent of a child with a disability, travel takes on many extra complications, so you need to know more than ever how to tackle each situation. It can be particularly tough to know where to turn when you need help and advice, so we have gathered a selection of useful resources, services and discussion forums to point you in the right direction when planning your next holiday. 

  • www.reducedmobility.eu - Originally created by the father of a child with reduced mobility, this site is a portal for advice, news and information on the rights, laws and services that affect those with reduced mobility. The knowledgeable support team can help offer advice and support via email or phone. 
  • www.disabledtraveladvice.co.uk - An extensive resource covering topics from tube travel for wheelchair users to holiday accommodation. Also includes a section specifically for parents of children with disabilities. 
  • www.parentsofdisabledchildren.co.uk - A forum for parents to create discussions, ask questions and offer reviews of any topic relating to parenting a disabled child. Here you can search through existing threads for the answer to your question, or join for free and become a part of the community yourself. 
  • www.specialkidsintheuk.org - Starting as an online support group, Special Kids is now a registered charity offering contact, information and support for families of children and young people with special needs throughout the UK. The site has a good resource section for organisations that specialise in holidays for the disabled and a forum for creating discussions and asking questions. 
  • www.tourismforall.org.uk - The site is run by a national charity that focuses on providing information to the public on where their specific access needs can be met so that they can fully participate in travel and leisure. Register for free and download one of their regularly updated guides or call the support number to ask any questions you may have. 
  • www.and-me.org.uk - a community and resource for all parents of children with disabilities and special needs, set up by the father of a child with disabilities. The holidays pages offer links and discounts with specialist holiday providers or sign up for free membership to access the discussions forums and interact with other parents of disabled children. 
  • http://tryb4ufly.co.uk - Try b4u Fly is a service that will provide adults and children with the unique opportunity to trial specially designed aircraft seating support for children, young people and adults with disabilities for use on airlines. 

 

All details correct as of March 2013.

If there are any airlines or information not included here that you would like to know more about, email us at feedback@purpleparking.com and we'll include the most popular. 

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