If you need a particular service or facility, always check that it is available before booking.
Here are some of the services which airlines and airports should be able to provide on request.
- assistance to reach check-in
- assistance with registration at check-in
- briefing you and any escort or companion on emergency procedures and the layout of the cabin
- assistance getting on and off the plane
- assistance with stowing and retrieving baggage on the plane
- providing an on-board wheelchair (not always available)
- providing someone to meet you off the plane and help you
- find your way around the airport
If you need to travel with a companion, the airline may be able to offer a reduced fare for the second ticket. This will usually be a reduction against the full fare.
There may be a limit on the number of reduced fares they can offer on one flight, especially if it is a holiday package or a charter flight. Ask your travel agent or the airline for more details.
The same restriction may apply in cases where the disabled traveller needs to occupy two seats for a reason related to their disability.
Check if there are any weight restrictions on the plane which might cause problems with your hand luggage or mobility equipment.
Airlines are happy to carry wheelchairs but may be unable to take a scooter or buggy.
Air travel if you are blind or visually impaired
Let your travel agent and/or travel operator know if you need any extra assistance.
On the plane
A Braille version of the safety demonstration given by the cabin crew to all passengers at the beginning of a flight might be available. An audio version may also be available.
Cabin crew should also tell you more general information about the plane, its services and facilities. For example, they will be able to read the food menu or describe what is available from the on-board shopping service.
If you are deaf or hearing impaired
At the airport check for an induction loop facility and, if necessary, arrange for someone to help you through check-in, baggage check and customs controls.
Ask a member of staff to inform you personally at the time of the boarding announcement.
Also, check for an induction loop facility on board the plane so that you have access to the flight safety demonstration.
The affects of air travel
The Royal National Institute for Deaf People has produced a fact sheet entitled ‘Flying and the ear’.
Support dogs and air travel
If you have a support or assistance dog, check the policy of the airline you are travelling with.
Normally support and assistance dogs travel free of charge. You should also check if your dog can travel in the cabin with you. On some airlines, assistance dogs have to travel in the hold of the plane.
If you are going abroad and wish to take your dog with you, the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) could help you avoid long quarantine periods.
You have to carry out a number of procedures – including having your dog fitted with a microchip.
Countries participating in PETS include:
- parts of Europe
- mainland USA
- certain other long haul destinations – including Australia
If you are physically disabled
Most airports publish information about airport facilities, including those for disabled and less mobile people. You can often get maps of airport terminal buildings, car parks and public transport station layouts from bus, coach and train companies.
Booking and advance notice
It’s important to give airlines as much notice as possible if you will need assistance.
If you are an independent wheelchair user and can make your own way to the plane, you will still need to transfer from your personal wheelchair to an on-board wheelchair and then into the plane seat.
If you have walking difficulties you may find that with the distances involved at the airport, you need to use a wheelchair or buggy to get to the gate.
Airports and airlines should do all that is reasonably possible to meet your requests for assistance.
Some airlines may ask you to prove why you need some facilities or services, such as additional legroom.
This helps make sure airlines can give priority to those people who really need these facilities, since they are often in limited supply.
Different airlines have different policies. The airline or travel agent will tell you when you book what information you will need to provide.
Also, an airline is entitled to demand that a passenger travels with a companion if the passenger is not self-sufficient.
You should be capable of moving from a passenger seat to an on-board wheelchair, as cabin crew are not allowed to lift passengers in and out of seats for Health and Safety reasons.
If you are a wheelchair user
If you are a wheelchair user you should be able to stay in your own wheelchair until you reach the side of the plane.
You will then need to transfer into an on-board chair to get on to the plane.
Sometimes, the point at which you will have to transfer may vary between airports and will depend on what facilities and equipment are available for the staff to get your wheelchair to the aircraft.
If the plane is joined to the terminal building by an ‘air-bridge’ or tunnel, you should be able to stay in your own wheelchair right to the door of the plane, as there will be level entry into the passenger cabin.
If the plane is parked away from the terminal, passengers will have to use a flight of stairs to board.
You will have to transfer into a boarding chair or on-board wheelchair at the departure gate, or on the ground outside the plane, or in the vehicle that you travelled to the plane in.
If your wheelchair has to be specially packed, you may need to transfer into an airport chair at check-in.
This often applies to powered wheelchairs or scooters. Remember to check with the airline if they will carry your wheelchair or scooter.
Seating on board an aircraft has to meet air safety regulations. Because of this, you cannot take your own wheelchair on-board a plane. It will be stored in the hold of the plane.
It is also a good idea to make sure your wheelchair is adequately insured.