In the 21st century, there should be nothing to stop someone with an electric wheelchair from travelling by airplane. However, users are well aware that these chairs do not fit into every space imaginable. This can give cause for concern, and many will be wondering if they are able to even stow their equipment during their flight. In this article, we’ll explain the essential facts about taking an electric wheelchair on a plane.
Electric wheelchairs and planes: the rules
The UK government advises that electric wheelchair users are not permitted to take mobility devices into the passenger cabin. The primary reason for this is that they are too wide and heavy to take down the tight cabin aisles.
Instead, users must inform the airline they are travelling with the particular chair they use (i.e. the specific make and model). That way, airline staff can correctly and securely load the chair onto the plane for the duration of the flight.
Passengers in the UK and EU with a disability are entitled to assistance from staff when arriving, registering, moving through the airport, boarding and disembarking the aircraft. During the flight, they can also receive help to find their way around the plane, including choosing a suitable seat and navigating the aircraft.
Generally, you can take up two mobility items free of charge. However, restrictions may apply
Before you book, check if the airline has any restrictions related to mobility equipment. To prevent any issues with loading, you should:
- Inform the airline of the make, model and size of your electric wheelchair.
- Bring the wheelchair operating manual with you, as this may be helpful for the airline staff
- Inform the airline if the electric wheelchair you use is collapsible. You should also let them know how they can assemble and disassemble the chair.
Boarding the plane
After letting the airline know the details of your chair, at check-in, you will be given a temporary manual wheelchair for boarding. Passengers with disabilities are given boarding priority over all other passengers and will be given assistance from airline staff if requested.
Upon landing, wheelchair users will be given the chance to disembark ahead of other passengers. Once the plane has reached the gate and unloaded, the electric wheelchair you have stored on the plane will be returned as close as possible to the plane door, in the same condition it was handed over.
Do I need insurance?
While you do not need insurance to store a mobility scooter or power wheelchair on a plane, it is recommended. The Civil Aviation Authority states that, although airlines remain liable for any damage to mobility equipment, compensation may be limited to around £1,300. If you do suffer damage to your equipment, the airport must provide you with a temporary alternative, although it does not have to be like for like.