If you are unable or have difficulty walking then your wheelchair can be a vital part of your travel plans! But if you’re planning to travel by air with your wheelchair then you’ll want to make sure that you’re completely prepared. To help, we’ve put together our guide on airline travel with a wheelchair.

Travel with wheelchair

What are the laws around travelling in a wheelchair?

The Equality Act 2010 and European Union law provides you with rights if you’re disabled or have reduced mobility and you’re travelling by air. Your rights ensure that a level of assistance is in place to help you board and disembark the plane with your mobility devices.

Before you fly

The airline will do all it can to ensure your journey goes smoothly, however, there are just a couple of things you need to do before you fly.

– Be sure to let your booking agent, tour operator or airline know that you have a disability or reduced mobility at least 48 hours before you fly.

– Make sure that if you need help to do certain things on the plane, e.g. fastening your seat belt or getting to an emergency exit, that someone is travelling with you who can assist (airline staff are not required to provide personal care).

If there’s a safety reason why you can’t fly on any particular flight, the airline should find another way of getting you to your destination.

Taking equipment on board

You’re allowed to take up to two mobility items on board with you that will help you get around, provided they are small enough to fit inside the cabin.

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Boarding with your wheelchair

The airline is likely to allow you to board before other passengers. You can usually use your own wheelchair as far as the point of boarding the plane. Onboard the plane you are able to use the inflight wheelchair, or, if you have some mobility and are able to walk down the aircraft’s aisle then you can request a seat close to the entrance doors.

Storing your wheelchair in the luggage hold

– If you have an electric wheelchair or scooter, try to be at the airport at least 3 hours before departure. This is important because (as a precaution against the battery causing a hazard by leaking inflight) baggage handlers may need to remove the battery from your wheelchair or scooter and place it in a special container before putting your chair onboard the plane. The airlines are responsible for ensuring that your battery is reconnected and that your chair is working on arrival at your destination.

– As an extra precaution, you may want to remove all detachable parts before your wheelchair is stored and label the chair with your name, address and destination airport.

– Your wheelchair will be conveniently stored so it can be immediately provided when you disembark from the plane.

What to do if your wheelchair is lost:

It’s a rare worst case scenario but one that needs to be considered! In the unlikely event that a mobility device is lost or damaged, EU legislation requires airports to provide temporary replacement of damaged or lost mobility equipment. Also, because of airlines limiting damage refunds to approximately £1140 it is a good idea to ensure that you have travel insurance with adequate personal belongings cover. For example, an AllClear Gold Plus policy provides £2500 cover for loss or damage to mobility aids*.

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Following our simple guide, travelling by air with your wheelchair should be simple and straightforward. Check out our sources and further information on flying with a wheelchair below, happy travelling!

Our sources and further information on flying with a wheelchair:

The UK Citizens Advice ‘Rights for disabled air travellers’ page

The Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality’s ‘How to travel by air with a wheelchair’

The AllClear disability travel insurance page

*  Always check the cover limits on policy wording.