Flying as a wheelchair user can be pretty stressful, especially if you're traveling alone. From getting to the airport on time to accessibility issues, there are several things you may be worried about. That said, here are five tips that can alleviate your stress and help you have smoother and inclusive excursions when flying.
1. Arrive Early
As a general principle, travelers are usually advised to get to the airport at least three hours before the stated departure time for international flights and at least two hours before for domestic flights. As a wheelchair user, you should arrive earlier. If you're planning to travel soon, plan how you'll get to the airport before booking your flight. Also, contact your airline at least two days before the flight to inform them of any special assistance travel requests. Most airlines enhance mobility by providing airport assistance for wheelchair users for an inclusive travel experience.
2. Read the Air Carrier Access Act
Ignorance isn't bliss. Before flying, familiarize yourself with the Air Carrier Access Act to ensure your rights aren't violated. While it's a fairly detailed document, it's worth perusing. You can learn more about the Air Carrier Access Act here.
3. Safeguard Your Wheelchair
Airlines take several precautions to ensure the safety of wheelchairs. Unfortunately, some wheelchairs still get damaged occasionally. You can minimize the risk of your wheelchair getting damaged or misplaced by doing the following things:
- Request for your wheelchair to be stowed away in the aircraft cabin. Most aircraft can usually accommodate at least one wheelchair in the cargo hold. Wheelchairs stored in the cargo compartment are less susceptible to damage.
- Provide instructions for how your wheelchair should be handled, especially if you own a power wheelchair. Many baggage handlers aren't conversant with how to care for power wheelchairs. You can aid their work and protect your wheelchair from getting damaged by attaching comprehensive handling instructions to your wheelchair.
- Ensure the tag information on your wheelchair matches your travel information. The last thing you want is to be separated from your wheelchair. As an extra safety measure, include your name and contact information on your wheelchair.
4. Identify Wheelchair Resources at Your Travel Destination
Accidents happen. You may take all the measures listed above, and your wheelchair could still get damaged during the flight. If you suffer this misfortune, ensure you file a complaint with the airline before leaving the airport. If you discover damage and file a complaint immediately after deplaning, the airline will need to repair your wheelchair. However, if you leave the airport without filing a complaint, the airline won't be responsible for any damages.
It would help if you also read up on your travel destinations for inclusive excursions. Identify wheelchair repair shops near the areas where you'll be staying during your trips. If your wheelchair gets damaged, at least you'll be able to get it repaired.
5. Stay Positive
Last but not least, stay positive. Sure, flying as a wheelchair user comes with several challenges, but they aren't insurmountable. When you're on the flight, try not to think about logistical issues beyond your control. Thinking about them will only stress you out. Instead, stay positive. Positivity is vital to successful inclusive excursions.
Traveling by air as a wheelchair user can be daunting. But don't worry about things that are out of your control. Focus on what you can control and use the tips above for inclusive excursions.