The basic answer is no; you can’t.
Can I travel in my wheelchair on a plane? It’s sad to say, in this modern age where man has climbed to the highest point on earth and travelled at supersonic speed at the same time, you are unable to sit in a wheelchair on a plane.
Designs and ideas are being discussed between airline carriers and partners (not sure who?). Although at the moment, it is still impossible to travel sitting in a wheelchair on a plane.
But you can fly
As a wheelchair user, you can fly on all airlines. But unfortunately, there are no allowances to sit in a wheelchair during your air time. In fact, you vacate your wheelchair before you get on the aeroplane.
The task of vacating your chariot may be at check-in but most commonly, after travelling down the air corridor, at the plane door. You transfer here and get strapped into the aisle chair. Then get manoeuvred into the cabin and squeezed down the aisle to the allocated, pre-booked seat.
Sometimes an Ambulift is used to get the wheelchair user to the plan door. The Ambulift is a room on wheels that can lift hydraulically to the height of the plane door. To allow easy access. The wheelchair user may or may not be in the aisle chair during the rise of this contraption. The transfer to the isle chair may occur when the Ambulift is at sufficient height or before its lift starts.
Once out of the wheelchair
The wheelchair gets taken away after transferring out into the aisle chair – this always makes me nervous; my wheelchair is my legs, I need it!
If you’re fortunate to get a friendly baggage handler who will be careful making sure, your wheelchair gets stowed in the cargo hold. Other handlers might not be so careful. On occasion, you might get seated and be able to look out of the tiny oval-shaped window. Seeing your wheelchair taken to the safe belly of the plane.
Can my wheelchair get damaged?
The traveller’s wheelchair is always at risk of getting damaged before, during or after the flight. The handlers can mistreat, throwing it haphazardly in and out of the cargo hold. There is also a chance it might get damaged in the cargo hold. Either way, exiting the silver bird, waiting to be reintroduced to your aid. There’s always the heart-thumping worry that it’s damaged.
Am I allowed on a plane first?
Some airlines allow you to; others don’t.
Airlines like the traveller with mobility needs to be at the boarding gate early to allow time to embark. But if the ground crew assisting you are late, it delays everything. Sometimes you get on first, other times not. Frustratingly, getting on first makes the time on the plane somewhat longer. As you sit and wait for all other passengers to board, stow their hand luggage and seat themselves. It can be a bit awkward if a passengers seat allocation is next to you. And they expect you to stand aside so they can get positioned
Boarding last can make things feel embarrassing. It can feel as if eyes other passengers are on you. Thinking you are the reason the aircraft is waiting to taxi down the runway.
Can I use the bathroom on an aroplane?
It’s difficult. Flight attendants can assist to and from the toilet using the aisle chair. Although you need to get yourself in and out of the bathroom by yourself.
Urinating sitting in your airline seat is an option. At the same time, being able to empty the receptacle you urinated in can be difficult,
If you use powered wheelchairs and want to use air travel. You need to check what status your wheelchair needs to be in when in the cargo hold. This is because different powered wheelchair batteries are required to be inhibited differently. Guidance on powered wheelchair battery staus can be found here: https://www.bhta.com/air-transport-advice/
On long hall flights, in the big Jumbo’s. There is occasionally space in the cabin for manual wheelchairs.
Can I get an upgrade?
Always worth asking, it can work!
Try B 4 You Fly
You can use the Try B4 You Fly Centres to see a fuselage and practice getting on a plane. See http://tryb4ufly.co.uk/ or https://www.wmdlc.org/try-b4u-fly to arrange an assessment.
This blog is written from my experience of air travel and hearing stories from friends. If you are planning on flying, always check airport and airline regulations and requirements before you travel.
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