Flying with baggage for medical supplies/equipment in South America

Greetings - my gf and I will be traveling through South America for the last 3 weeks of April. She is able-bodied and I am c5 quadriplegic that can walk with crutches for short distances/durations (like down the aisle of an airplane). We’ve traveled extensively in USA, with a bit of Europe and the Caribbean as well. However I believe this will be quite different because for all of that past travel, we’ve always flown one of the major airlines here (American Airlines, Delta, United, Southwest, etc) and on these airlines the policy is pretty much the same across the board:

  • I’m able to remain in my wheelchair and check it right at the gate

  • I’m allowed to bring a carry-on bag containing medical supplies in addition to whatever the standard cary-on allowance for that specific airline and class of ticket

  • I’m allowed to carry on yet another bag containing my Freewheel (and its parts), which is essentially a 3rd wheel that attaches to my wheelchair allowing me to navigate some rougher terrain

…all this for no additional charge.

I’m starting to get concerned as we look at flights between countries within South America (ex Ecuador to Argentina) and also flights with the same countries. What I’ve been seeing is some pretty high costs for standard carry-on as well as checked baggage and not much more information on what I’m allowed to bring (paid for or not) medical supplies/equipment-wise.

Does anyone know if there is a standard policy in place of any sort with respect to this in South America?

Anyone who has done any traveling in South America, any anecdotes to share that might give me an idea of what to expect? Or other tips?

Hey there! It all depends on the airline. Send all these questions in writing to the airline customer service email address and get that response in writing from an authority on the subject.
If you run into any problems in the airport, pull out the airline response in writing to settle any discrepancy. Maybe use Google translate for the text.

As a manual wheelchair user, I can tell you that nothing goes as planned. Uninformed employees can give wrong information which can be disappointing. Imagine backup plans for airline employees’ failures. Decide what you will accept from the airline and what is not acceptable. Be ready if they lose or break your equipment. Have a list of contact information of a medical supply and repair place in the cities you will be in. Don’t count on getting your equipment there in the jetway, like here in the USA. You will probably get an airport wheelchair to baggage claim, where you will wait for 2-3 hours for your equipment to show up in a special area for oversized and unusual luggage. The traveling days are very long.

I have traveled to Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Peru and Ecuador with a manual wheelchair and CPAP machine and medicine bag. Can you private message me? I have a lot of advice.