Traveling with a Power Chair

From a community member:

I recently moved to a folding power chair. I’m nervous about flying with the chair because I’ve never traveled with it before. The last time I flew my rollator was broken, so I feel my worries are justified. Is there any advice or tips you can give about traveling with a power chair?

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I haven’t travelled with mine yet, but I bought it for that purpose. I would take the joystick off before they load it and put it in my carry on. That way, someone can’t go for a joy ride, and it is the only part that sticks out and could snap off. Happy travels!

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Your worry is justified. Folding power chairs are not used to being knocked around and can easily be damaged. Our kickstand was damaged and the airline paid for a new one. The wiring got loosened from the battery and had to be reconnected. Luckily both were easy fixes and did not stop my husband long from using the chair. Secure any lose parts or bring them on board with you. If you have any type of cover for it use it. For the most part ground baggage handlers are careful with mobility devices. But accidents do happen.

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We have traveled with our EZ Light Cruiser (folding power chair). We remove the seat cushion and joystick, then put the folded chair in a bag that is purpose-made for the chair (also from EZ Light). It’s well-protected that way.

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I have an Air Hawk (which is a collapsible wheelchair). I drive the wheelchair to the entrance of the plane and leave it for the baggage crew. I do not collapse it because I fear they might throw a piece of luggage on it once it is in the hold. My wheelchair is return to the gang way once we arrive at our destination. Sometimes I remove the joystick but not always because I have a problem reattaching it. I have been traveling with my collapsible wheelchair since 2019, gone on several flights and have not had a problem.

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What airlines were you using? We are flying to Miami end of September for a cruise. I’m terrified my husband’s chair might be damaged

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I a Porto D09 Ranger. It weighs 50 lbs and is very compact when folded. I was very resistant to get a chair, but I’m hoping I’ll travel more without feeling exhausted.

We lost our first chair due to a mishap on SW. They eventually reimbursed us. The Luggi replacement has a “suitcase” that provides reasonable protection but option is no longer available. The most important recommendation we would offer is to strap the chair shut so that it cannot open "accidentally. "

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As long as you report any damage to your equipment before leaving the airport, the airlines are responsible for the equipment. If they damage or total it, they have to provide a replacement till yours is repaired or replaced.

Thanks! I would have never though of that.

Hi there! Emily here with accessibleGO. It can be a very nerve wracking experience, and we all know airlines are prone to breaking them. However, the reports show that actually only 2% of chairs are broken, which I find comforting that 98% of the time, I’ll be okay when traveling.

I always try to be crystal clear with what I need and how everyone can help. I mark that I have a wheelchair when I buy my ticket, and then when I arrive to the airport, I work with the gate attendant to do the inspection of the chair before boarding and get the proper documentation to gate check it.

I have a foldable power chair, and take the joystick and batteries on board with me. If it’s raining, I also take the seat cushion so it doesn’t get wet. And I find that the ramp agents are more familiar with the foldable power chairs as they are becoming more common.

Happy Traveling!!

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You might take a couple pictures of your chair just before you get on the plane that way if its damaged you will have proof it was done after you got on the plane. I would also put it in a bag, I have one for my Airhawk but I have not flown with it so have not had a chance to use it.

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I also have an Air Hawk, so this is useful info. I haven’t done any plane trips with it yet, although that is why I bought it. You said you didn’t collapse it, so do they just put it into the hold while it’s open? I was thinking I would need to remove the joystick and the batteries to be safe. Thanks for the info.

I have flown my Air Hawk aboard American and Southwest and have not had to remove my batteries. Removing the joystick is your choice. I choose not to because the wheelchair is brought up to the airplane as everyone deplaning, with space being limited on the gang way, I have had a hard time reconnecting the joystick, so I just leave it attached. So far, I have not had any problems. I choose not to collapse it and yes, they take it into the hold open (probably easier for them if they are not familiar with how to collapse the chair and then reset it safely). I will be flying with Delta in September, will be interesting to see how things goes.

Which reports? By the airlines? – Just based on the folks on the forum I think that 98% is wildly optimistic. I used to travel by plane quite a bit with my power chair but, honestly, they broke something almost every time. And this may only include reports where people actually file for repairs — of course they say they’ll hook you up with someone to fix the chair at your destination, but most repairs on a rehab level chair cannot begin to get fixed in that amount of time.

Uh, Oh, Im scared now-- Having just spent money on a power chair–it was a big decision for me, but I know in recent years being in an airport was so hard to walk in and I easily tired and was in pain. So, if I can get the power piece off easily I should? What about transferring to another airplane? Did anyone have any trouble with that? I am leaving the USA and will be on several planes before I get to Europe-- I’m getting very nervous about the foldable power chair-- but I know I will need it. My hosts say they wont mind pushing me on a manual-- but who wants that?

All US based airlines take power chains. The issue becomes the battery. If it’s Lithium, then only 10ah batteries are ok generally. If your traveling internationally, airlines get very strict. Some countries won’t allow lithium batteries of any size so check with your airlines.

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Hi - I am just completing my first trip since I became paralyzed in 2019, which has taken me to Iceland, Italy and Greece, with my power chair. Like you I was very nervous about the chair being damaged and still am as I have my home bound flight tomorrow. Thank goodness there has been no damage apart from scratches. I removed the neck support, the controls and arm rests just prior to being transferred to the aisle chair and took these with me on board. Prior to the flight I contacted the airlines and airports giving my flight details and asking them to make sure they handled my chair carefully. I gave them make of chair and mod, weight, height and width dimensions. If you have a Twitter account it doesn’t do any harm sending a tweet to the airline and airport telling them (and the Twitter world) you’re coming.
Hope it goes well for you.