The air travel industry is going sky-high! On May 25, 2022, more than 2.1 million Americans flew on at least one commercial flight. That’s just shy of pre-pandemic numbers.
This may make you think that flying with an Asheville power wheelchair is easy. In reality, it can be quite complicated. Before you book your tickets, you should do your research.
How should you prepare for your flight? How do TSA checkpoints work for people who use wheelchairs? What do you need to do about your wheelchair?
Request Accommodations and Give Yourself Resources
The Air Carrier Access Act requires air carriers to accommodate wheelchair users regardless of their needs. However, air regulations prohibit you from using your wheelchair on a plane, even if it can fit in the cabin.
You should tell the airline you are flying with that you need special accommodations. Be specific with what you need and tell them what power wheelchair you use.
If you need a connecting flight, you should find a flight that takes off more than an hour after you land. This means you won’t need to rush through the airport and it lets the airline transfer your wheelchair to your next flight.
Try to get a seat in the first row of the economy section. You won’t need to be wheeled back into the airplane, and the seats tend to have more space around them.
Try to register for the TSA PreCheck program. If you qualify, you do not need to remove your shoes, belt, or jacket at a TSA checkpoint. A TSA agent will only examine your hands and travel wheelchair, and they may look inside your bag, but you will not need a full-body search.
Pack Light and Smart
Everyone needs different supplies with them on an airplane. In general, it is a good idea to bring a small carry-on bag that contains all of your essential items.
If you need medications, you should pack enough pills for a few days. This covers you in case your baggage gets lost or you can’t fill your prescription on the road.
You may want to bring urological supplies like a catheter. Airport and airplane restrooms can be extremely uncomfortable to use, and supplies can make using the bathroom easy.
If you are bringing your wheelchair to the airport, you should print out a sign on how to operate your chair and attach it to the back. You can also attach instructions on how to close and break your wheelchair down so it doesn’t get damaged.
Power wheelchairs tend to be bulkier than manual chairs.
Feel free to hang a small bag off the back of your wheelchair that you can put small pieces into. You can fit your headrest and footrests in the bag and bring the bag on board. You can use these rests on your flight or fit them in the overhead compartment.
Prepare for Security
When you arrive at the airport, you should go straight to your airline’s ticket counter. You can use your wheelchair until you board the plane, or you can check it in for storage at the counter. If you check it in, you can use an airline wheelchair to move around the airport.
Before you go through a TSA checkpoint, you should put all of your loose items into your carry-on bag. Your ID, wallet, and cell phone should all go inside.
At that point, a TSA agent will take you aside for a security check. They will examine your electric wheelchair while you are sitting in it, and they will use the back sides of their hands to inspect your body. You can ask the agent for a private or semi-public check.
Board the Plane
You may want to use the bathroom before you get on board. You may also want to drink some water, as air travel can be dehydrating.
You will be boarded roughly 30 minutes prior to your departure and before all other passengers. An airline employee will help you get into a travel wheelchair that they can fit down the aisle.
They will also help you get into your seat. You can ask for cushions to be placed down so you are not sitting directly on the seat.
Try to enjoy your flight as much as possible. You can work, sleep, or relax on the airplane.
If you must get out of your seat to use the lavatory, you should contact a flight attendant. They can use an aisle seat to move you down the aisle to get to the bathroom.
You will be the last person off the plane after it lands. This lets the crew retrieve your wheelchair and bring it to you at your arrival gate.
Before you get on it, do a quick visual inspection so it isn’t damaged. If it is damaged, you should file a complaint with your airline right away. They are required to fix your chair, but only if you file a complaint before you leave the airport.
Start Flying With an Asheville Power Wheelchair
Flying with a wheelchair doesn’t have to be difficult. You should tell your airline what you need and find a seat in the front row.
Get TSA PreCheck so you don’t need a full-body patdown. Check your wheelchair at the gate and use an aisle chair to move around the plane. Inspect your chair for any problems after you board and file a complaint if anything is damaged.
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