Flying with a power chair is probably one of the stressful events you will ever experience. I know because I have been doing it for over 25 years and it does not get any easier. But until they can send me up in a rocket to wherever I have to go, the airlines and I are stuck with each other. What else can I do? Stay home?
On the other hand, with a root canal they put to sleep during the whole time, nobody cares about your shoes and you don’t have to worry about missing connecting root canals.
Do’s and don’t of flying:
- Top rule: Don’t do it! Taking the train or bus is so much more relaxing when your chair is always with you.
But, if you insist.
- When you check-in, tell them the combined weight of you and your chair and suggest that you wheel right up to the cabin door. Trust m`e, nobody wants to push 430 pounds through a busy airport. If you want someone to escort you to get you to the gate, ask. Personally, I find they just slow me down.
At the gate, show the crew how to engage and disengage the brakes on both sides if applicable. Tell them to engage the brake the while in flight.
Insist that your joystick and footrests be removed and taken on board. If not, tell them these parts are extremely fragile and tell them they WILL be damaged if not. If necessary, emphasize that this is a highly specialized piece of equipment and personalized to meet your unique needs. It cannot be rented and the local wheelchair dealer is likely closed or don’t stock the parts. Your vacation will over before it starts. DO TRY REMOVING THE PARTS AT HOME FIRST! There is no time for surprises just before your flight. Remove any ties keeping cords in place. It very hard to cut ties when the sharpest object the crew, including the pilot, has is a car key. If you need some, bring some spares.
- I have never had to resort to this, but if they refuse to cooperate, tell them you’re not getting on that plane and to take your luggage off the plane because it has essential items. See how fast they change their minds.
If you have dry-cell batteries, there is no need to remove them. When the joystick is disconnected, there is no live circuit. Reinstalling the batteries can be problematic. I have a 100% survival rate when my batteries are left intact
Make clear that your chair shall not be put on its side when being loaded. If they ask why not, ask them what do you they think would happen is they flipped their car on its side.
If your chair is damaged, go to Customer Service and file a damage claim. There is a central agency. Scootaround, that handles claims for over 30 airlines. I have never had a claim disputed.
Remember: stay calm, speak with authority and always remember when it comes to the handling of your chair, you always have the last word