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Travelling by aeroplane can provide particular challenges for wheelchair users and people whose mobility is reduced. Concerns such as wheelchair storage or how to manage the transfer from wheelchair to plane seat can make the process feel as if it’s almost too complicated to contemplate. But, in the UK, passengers with reduced mobility or disability are legally entitled to support.

  • Air travel with a wheelchair can bring additional challenges.
  • Travel concerns may discourage people from travelling by plane.
  • UK passengers with reduced mobility or disability are entitled to ‘Special Assistance’ when travelling by air.

People with a disability or reduced mobility who have special travel requirements including help to understand flight information, help on the plane, or help regarding the transport of wheelchairs, must have them taken into account during the process.

As with all travel, planning for air travel with a wheelchair is key for a safe and comfortable trip particularly as different airlines and airports provide different facilities.

Clear communication with the airline is essential either directly or through the tour operator or travel agent at least 48 hours prior to departure. This should mean that travellers receive the appropriate service, but the onus is on the traveller to request special assistance if they use a wheelchair.

Travellers should be clear about the type of assistance they need so that the airline can clarify whether they are able to provide appropriate support. This may be, for example, through the departure airport, aircraft boarding and assistance throughout the flight, disembarkation, transfer between flights if necessary, and travel through the destination airport having landed.

It’s also important to clarify that there is space on the plane for the wheelchair as possible carry-on baggage to be checked-in at the desk in the case of a manual folding wheelchair or stowed safely as special baggage for an electric wheelchair, as well as to ensure compliance with wheelchair battery airline regulations.

The particular support that different airlines offer may help passengers to decide which airline they wish to use as, for example, some may have restrictions relating to equipment – so it’s worth being clear regarding the wheelchair’s make, model and size.

Generally, disabled passengers can travel free of charge with up to 2 items of mobility equipment which do not count as part of their baggage allowance but again, as different airlines may have different rules, clarification prior to travel is essential.

Finally, although airlines do have some limited liability for any damage to mobility equipment, extra insurance may be worth considering, especially as any temporary alternative or replacement may not be provided on a like for like basis.