Can you Bring Your Wheelchair On An Airplane?

Individuals who use wheelchairs to help with mobility issues having their wheelchair wherever they go are essential for staying mobile and independent. But what about when we need to get on an airplane and leave the general area of our home and local areas. Can you bring your wheelchair on an airplane? What about if you have an electric wheelchair will that also be allowed on the airplane? Don’t worry we will answer all these questions and more so you can feel confident and relaxed on your next airplane trip.

For most of us, we eventually will have to get on an airplane. Destinations will be too long to drive, we have to need to go abroad, or an emergency comes up that requires us to fly. For those in wheelchairs, this can be a confusing and stressful time because we might not know if you can bring the wheelchair you own with you. Let’s find out.

Can you bring your wheelchair on a plane?

So, can you take a wheelchair on an airplane? Yes. You can take your wheelchair on a plane when you travel, and airlines must do so free of charge. But as you know there are important things you need to know. Most airlines will not allow you to bring your wheelchair on board but will allow you to leave it at the check-in. The staff with the airlines you fly will provide you one that is suitable for flight. You should also arrive at least 1 to 2 hours before the flight is scheduled to leave so you can easily pass security.

How does someone in a wheelchair get on a plane?

Keep in mind that different airlines and crews will allow for different boarding methods. But typically you can expect to take your wheelchair just to the entrance of the airplane where the airlines will then transfer you to a transfer chair or aisle chair. The staff will then wheel you on the plane to your seat. But it is not unusual to be transferred to a transfer chair at the gate where a staff member will then wheel you to the plant and our seat.

If you call and ask the airlines you flying if you can roll your own chair to the bulkhead seat if you are sitting there without having to be transferred to another transfer chair. This will depend on the seat and the airline.

Do you have to pay to take a wheelchair on a plane?

No, According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Airlines are required to accept one manual wheelchair in a plane with 100 or more seats. If the wheelchair you have does not fit in the airplanes cabin the airline personnel will then be required to stow it in the carbo portion of the plane, free of charge.

But to make things smoother we recommend that you notify the airlines you are flying in advance so they know your situation. It is also wise to get to the airlines up to 2 hours before your flight so things can go smoothly and you do not need to be rushed.

Can you stay in your wheelchair on a plane?

No, regulations prohibit passengers from staying and sitting in their own wheelchairs while on a commercial flight. In most cases, you will be brought on a plane by a transport chair then helped to your seat.

In this scenario, you may want to even think about using a transfer board or pack transfer straps to help with this if you cannot get up under your own power.

Tips for booking a flight when you are on a wheelchair

When you know you are going to be traveling while in a wheelchair best practices are to contact the airlines in advance of your flight to ask them questions, make sure they know you will be in a wheelchair, and what their exact process is for accommodating wheelchair users. With that said here are a few tips to keep in mind.

  • Try and book yourself or your loved who if they are in the wheelchair an aisle seat that is towards the frotn of the plane.
  • Electric wheelchair users need to have the model, make, and type of battery that will be on the power chair when you call the airlines. They will need this information.
  • Avoid layovers if possible. Book direct flights so you do not have to board and exit twice.
  • Document your mobility equipment in the case there are mixup or issues like damage while transport is happening.
  • Have transport boards or other means ready if you know you will need them to get in and out of the chair to your seat.

What about electric batteries on a flight?

For those who use electric wheelchairs, the batteries can be another area we need to think about when boarding a domestic flight within the United States. Non-spillable batteries are allowed on the aircraft. When looking for batteries that are approved you can find two types. One must be removed during transport and one can stay with the mobility scooter or powered wheelchair.

  • Lithium-Ion: These are less common and these types of batteries have to be removed from the mobility device and carried in the carry-on baggage. If you have this type of battery the crew of the aircraft needs to know the location of the battery.
  • Sealed Lead Acid: Other names for short are Gel and AGM. These are what most power wheelchairs have. During the flight, the battery can stay with the mobility device as long as it is securely attached to the device. This is because the housing this battery uses are protected from damage and short circuits because the terminals are also protected.
Bring your wheelchair on an airplane

We have listed some of the major mainline passenger airlines in the United States along with their contact information and websites regarding handicap policies.

AirlineCustomer CareWheelchair Access Info
United Air Lines1-800-864-8331Wheelchair Services
American Air Lines1-800-433-7300Special Assistance
JetBlue Airways1-800-538-2583Mobility Assistance
Delta Air Lines1-800-455-2720Wheelchair Services
Alaska Air Lines1-800-252-7522Accessible Travel Services
Allegiant Air1-702-505-8888Special Needs
Frontier Air Lines1-801-401-9004Special Services
Hawaiian Air Lines1-800-367-5320Guests with Disabilities
Southwest Air Lines1-800-435-9792Customers with Disabilities
Spirit Air Lines1-855-728-3555Wheelchair Assistance

What happens once You arrrive at your destination?

Once you land, you should be aware that you will most likely wait until all other passengers have disembarked from the plane.

Once they have you will get assistance from the attendants and they will get you off the plane with the plane’s wheelchair. Once you arrive at baggage claim you can expect your own personal wheelchair to be there.

If you feel more comfortable speaking to the airlines beforehand you can ask them about their process of returning your wheelchair once you have landed. Most times it is the baggage claim area.

Can you bring your own on an airplane? According to the U.S Department of Transportation Nondiscrimination on disability in the Air Travel Act, passengers that are oxygen-dependent may carry their personal Federal Aviation Administration approved battery-powered portable oxygen concentration on the plane within the U.S. domestic and or international flight that has 19 or more passenger seats. That either begins or ends with the United States.

  • Airlines have to permit passengers to use their POC during the flight if it is labeled FAA-approved.
  • Airlines may charge for optional services like providing oxygen.
  • Airlines cannot charge for providing the required accommodations by the rule as in packaging for batteries or hazardoud materials.

How do you pack a wheelchair on a plane? It is best to remove all parts that are removable like armrests, headrests, cushions, footrests, ad more and place them securely into a duffle bag and carry that on the place. It is very easy to lose removal parts on a plane.

How can I use the bathroom if I need a wheelchair onboard a plane? We suggest booking an aisle seat if you require a wheelchair. This makes getting into the chair and out of the chair easier. it also is easier if you need to use the bathroom while on a flight. If you cannot walk will require the small onboard aisle chair. A flight attendant can help you with getting from your seat to the bathroom and back again.

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About ASmith

Adam Smith is the main researcher and contributor at Mobility Medical Supply. Adam has many years of research in public data, and software security. With Mobility issues within Adam's family, he decided to dedicate in-depth guides on mobility products to anyone looking to improve movement and gain independence.