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    Flying in a wheelchair

    First may I clarify, I don’t mean having a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang type of wheelchair which I know will undoubtedly disappoint some of you, but I mean flying with a wheelchair.

    I have now been a full-time wheelchair user for just under a year, prior to that for a few years I needed to use a pavement scooter as my ability to walk had diminished dramatically, now I cannot walk at all.

    So for about four years I have had to travel with a scooter and now with a wheelchair. I have flown from Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton and Stanstead and have flown with Ryanair, EasyJet, Middle Eastern Airlines and British Airways.

    The airport assistance you receive is actually from the airport and not the airline.

    When you book your flight you must advise the airline that you require assistance. Also you will not pay a seat selection fee or they will refund it to you once they know you are disabled. A good thing is to register for their Executive Club or whatever they call it, its free and you can input your preferences.

    The first thing the airline needs to know is the size of the wheelchair or scooter.

    British Airways can accommodate the following maximum dimensions for wheelchairs and mobility aids:

    Length 140cm (55.1in) Width 85cm (33.5in) Height 152cm (59.8in)

    Your wheelchair or mobility aids must fit within the maximum dimensions for BA to be able to accept it for travel.

    If your wheelchair exceeds the maximum dimensions due to the height of the headrest this must be removed from the device, if possible to do so, and can be taken into the aircraft cabin.

    If your wheelchair exceeds the maximum height due to a headrest, then as long as it can be removed and taken into the aircraft cabin separately, the device can still be accepted.

    The airline will also require details of what you are bringing, in particular the name of your scooter or chair, its weight, height, width and length. And also most importantly what batteries it has and their power. Some airlines are very strict on Lithium Ion batteries.

    British Airways say ‘If the lithium battery(ies) are securely attached to the wheelchair, scooter or mobility aid, they must remain in the device. The power must be disconnected/isolated so that it cannot be inadvertently activated. This can be achieved following the manufacturers instructions.
    • There is no maximum Watt-hour limit if the lithium battery(ies) remains in the device.
    Where a lithium ion battery operated wheelchair, scooter or mobility aid contains a battery that is not securely attached to the device, the following steps must be taken:
    • The battery must be removed following the instructions of the manufacturer or device owner.
    • The removed batteries must be protected from short circuit (e.g. by covering or taping over exposed terminals).
    • In order to protect them from damage, place batteries individually in a protective pouch and take them with you as carry-on ‘cabin’ baggage.
    • The maximum battery size is 300Wh, or for devices fitted with two batteries, 160Wh each.
    In practice whilst batteries can be removed if they are securely attached they do not need to be.

    British Airways and other airlines categorise the assistance they provide as:-
    • Service 1 - Assistance to and from the aircraft and getting around the airport for all or part of your journey, this will be either by electric buggy or airport wheelchair.
    • Service 2 - Assistance to and from the aircraft and getting around the airport for all or part of your journey, this will be either by electric buggy or airport wheelchair. Assistance to ascend or descend stairs to the aircraft door if parked away from the terminal building. Please note: You may be required to ascend or descend stairs in low level light or inclement weather.
    • Service 3 - Full level service to and from the aircraft. Use of a specialist aisle chair and transfer to your seat during boarding and disembarkation along with the use of an onboard aisle chair during the flight to move around the cabin.
    Choosing the service you require is very important.

    During the flight the cabin crew are unable to assist you onto the onboard aisle chair. If you do not possess enough upper body strength to move between your seat and the chair, then you will need to travel with someone who can help, they call that person a safety assistant.

    So what happens in practice?

    When you arrive at the airport you go to check in, often there is a dedicated check in desk for people needing assistance. Notwithstanding you will have orally provided the details to the airline when or soon after booking you will be asked to do so again. I have attached below, hopefully, a document I take and also fix to my chair in a laminated version.

    You tell the check in staff that you need your wheelchair in the airport and you will go the the boarding gate 30/40 minutes before departure. The alternative is you check in your wheelchair and then rely on the airport team to help you. I have seen people who have done that and then been taken to the boarding gate two hours before departure and just sit there stuck. You do not want that. Having your own chair and scooter allows you independence at the airport

    Even if your wheelchair folds tell them they it doesn’t. I have heard of people who have had their wheelchair folded and put in a case. It then gets thrown around like ordinary luggage and damaged. Whereas if you say it doesn’t fold they will carry it and push it as it is.

    When you are using a scooter or wheelchair you have fast access through all the security channels.

    When you arrive at the boarding gate you will often be the first to board and you take your chair to the door of the aircraft or half way down the gangway. You will then transfer into the onboard wheelchair which is very narrow. The ground staff will get you onto the plane. You will perhaps have to put your right hand on your left shoulder and lefy hand on your right shoulder or hands on knees as the aisle in an aircraft is very narrow. You will be taken to your seat and then you have to transfer into your seat and do the reverse at your destination.

    The very hard part is using the loo, or not, if you cannot walk. I dramatically reduce my fluids for 5 or six hours before the light and have a pee before boarding the plane. I have survived a five hour flight an drank like a fish on arrival. Next year I am planning to return to Kenya where I run a charity but that about 10 hours from boarding to departure. Anyone have any cable ties?

    Hopefully this is of assistance to those of you who are thinking of flying. Don’t be put off, we all love our holidays and you only really have to manage the flight.

    One last thing, if you like mildly spicy food always order a Special Meal called Asian Vegetarian, you will be served before everyone else and its always very enjoyable.

    RICHARD
    Last edited by richard; 7 November 2021, 09:47.
    Richard

    #2
    Well done Richard for keeping up your travels.

    For myself I no longer want to travel abroad now I am a wheelchair user but also I think I want to be in my comfort zone.I guess I feel secure in my own home where the layout is as I need and health professionals are locally based.My husband who is 71 has no desire to go abroad anymore for similar reasons.

    We enjoy going out for rides to new places or riverside walks( wheelchair rides).I find I need to stretch , exercise arms and legs to try and prevent aches from spasticity every few hours.If I sit or lie down too long I get horrible pains in knees.

    Its great you explained the airport help that might help forum members who still enjoy going abroad.

    Best Wishes
    Mary

    Comment


      #3
      richard that's terrific information and thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed post.
      👍🏻😉
      Initial diagnosis 7-4-2021 'suspected MND' confirmed by 2nd opinion 4th June 2021 ALS. Began with R foot limp and lots of falls. Generally weak. Mostly terrified.​​​​​​

      Comment


        #4
        Thanks for that Richard have to say I do not enjoy access to and from aircraft using those horrible steps. Why do some airports have great access on the same level from airport exit to plane entrance and yet others it's very precarious and exposed to the elements.

        Still a loo problem. Could use a condom thingy (I have an inappropriate nickname for it) with pipework and collection bag. Could strap it inside track suit trousers. No idea what ladies could use.

        Xx
        when i can think of something profound i will update this.

        Comment


          #5
          A very good write up Richard. Thanks for the effort it must have taken. I’d worry about what would happened to my wheelchair. Have your had any damage to your chair?

          I’m similar to Mary in that neither of us fancy the hassle of flying. We don’t even have passports currently since they ran out a few more ago.

          Lynne x
          ALS diagnosed November 2017, limb onset. For the 4 yrs previously I was losing my balance.

          I'm staying positive and taking each day as it comes.

          Comment


            #6
            Sorry here is the document I take and also attach to my chair:-

            You do not have permission to view this gallery.
            This gallery has 1 photos.
            Richard

            Comment


              #7
              I forgot to add to my post 'What happens if there is no jetty to the plane ?'

              If there is no jetty to the plane, which is normal with Ryanair and Eastjet then you will be taken across the concrete to the plane and taken up in a lift from which you will very easily be able to get on or off the plane.
              Richard

              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by richard View Post
                Sorry here is the document I take and also attach to my chair:-
                That’s great Richard x
                ALS diagnosed November 2017, limb onset. For the 4 yrs previously I was losing my balance.

                I'm staying positive and taking each day as it comes.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Really useful, thanks so much Richard. If I could justify paying for the travel insurance (£2,000+ for a week!) I would love to get some winter sun and your post answers so many questions.
                  Diagnosed October 2020 - See my blog at https://www.myneurodiary.com

                  Comment


                    #10
                    £2,000😯😮😳😱
                    Initial diagnosis 7-4-2021 'suspected MND' confirmed by 2nd opinion 4th June 2021 ALS. Began with R foot limp and lots of falls. Generally weak. Mostly terrified.​​​​​​

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Alternatively to fly in wheelchair just sit in it and drop a tab of LSD! 😉😎🤗😍xx
                      Bulbar started Jan 2020. Mute and 100% tube fed but mobile and undefeated. Stay Strong 🤗😘🤗😁xx

                      Comment


                        #12
                        I wonder if the insurance is any cheaper if sailing...on a cruise?
                        ​​​​​​I've been on a few cruises and there were many people on board who were wheelchair users.

                        Initial diagnosis 7-4-2021 'suspected MND' confirmed by 2nd opinion 4th June 2021 ALS. Began with R foot limp and lots of falls. Generally weak. Mostly terrified.​​​​​​

                        Comment


                          #13
                          richard Great post, thanks (even though I feel very let down by the thread's title 😏 I guess I'll hang onto my VR goggles so...) xx
                          ​Diagnosed 03/2007. Sporadic Definite ALS/MND Spinal (hand) Onset.
                          Eye gaze user - No functional limbs - No speech - Feeding tube - Overnight NIV.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by LindaB View Post
                            £2,000😯😮😳😱
                            The other quote was £4,800. Nowhere exotic, Tenerife.
                            Diagnosed October 2020 - See my blog at https://www.myneurodiary.com

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Crickey it gets worse PeterPan
                              Initial diagnosis 7-4-2021 'suspected MND' confirmed by 2nd opinion 4th June 2021 ALS. Began with R foot limp and lots of falls. Generally weak. Mostly terrified.​​​​​​

                              Comment

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