Air travel with a wheelchair

Wheelchair users find air travel the most challenging transport of all. Not because of a personal issue, but because airlines don’t like wheelchairs. Every wheelchair user crosses their fingers and hopes that their wheelchair will come through the flight without damage. The other inconveniences and indignities just add to travel stress.

Wheelchair users can stay in their powered wheelchair in taxis, trains and buses, but not in aircraft. The Transport Research Board has concluded that installing wheelchair securements is a win-win for wheelchair users, airlines, and everyone else involved in transporting wheelchair users.

A 12 year old girl is distressed in an aircraft aisle chair after her power wheelchair was taken away.

No major design or engineering challenges stand in the way of securing power wheelchairs in commercial airplanes.

Transport Research Board.
Photo credit Heike Fabig (in Daily Mail)

The title of the article is, Transportation Research Board details efforts to make national travel more ADA accessible. It was published online by Transportation Today.

“In air travel, preliminary research from a TRB consensus report determined that no major design or engineering challenges stand in the way of exploring the market’s need for and technical feasibility of securing personal power wheelchairs in commercial airplanes. This would be a major boost for non-ambulatory travellers, who are not currently allowed to use their personal wheelchair as a seat when flying.

Close up of a row of aircraft seats which are bright blue with grey backs.

Currently, people are potentially put on a flight in a seat that is not appropriate for them. Travellers and airlines risk injury in transfer and in flight. It also risks serious damage to a person’s necessary chair.

The indignity of being hoisted from a personal wheelchair is just one of the difficulties. Worrying that the wheelchair will be unharmed at the end of the flight is another. If it is damaged there is rarely a suitable replacement. Most wheelchair users have their chair fitted for their particular requirements. Some wheelchair users dehydrate themselves before the flight so they won’t need the bathroom during the flight.