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Air travel with a disability

Air travel with a disability

If you have a disability or reduced mobility, you may think travelling through the air is more of a stressful experience than a positive one. However, the good news is there’s now more support than ever. Moreso, you are actually legally entitled to aid, generally known as ‘Special Assistance’, when using air travel.

Those for whom support is available include those with a physical disability, the elderly, as well as those who struggle with communication and social interaction; for example, persons who have been given an autism or dementia diagnosis. Help is also on hand for those with temporarily illness or injury, such as a broken leg.

Help is available from the moment you arrive at the outgoing airport to the moment you arrive at your destination. All you are required to do is let the airport know 48 hours in advance, so they can prepare support tailored to your requirements. This will give them time to ensure you and a companion are sitting next to each other, for example. You are also allowed to bring an assistance dog if necessary.

Airlines and tour guides do operate a self-serve approach to requesting assistance. If you are booking on a website, look out for a special assistance link for information on how to get the type of help that you need. Do ensure you’re very clear about the assistance required and as always, keep a written record of any confirmation given to you.

It’s good practise to also have some questions ready to ask. As examples, you may wish to restrictions of certain medications, walking distance to departure gates and policies on carrying oxygen.

Assistance will be tailored to your requirements. However, support that you can expect to receive includes accessible toilets and changing rooms at airports, being granted a plane seat best suited for you, mobility assistance, pagers that alert you when your flight is boarding, help with registration at check-in, help at specific arrival points and rooms or lounges for those with sensory or anxiety issues.

If you own a wheelchair, the cabin crew will have to load it into the plane’s hold. However, they will provide you with a temporary one for transport to and from your airplane seat. You are also required to inform any airline or tour operator if you’re in possession of a battery-operated wheelchair or mobility aid.

If your travel involves a UK, EU or US airport, the assistance you should expect will be greatly similar. However, please do research the support available for you at your departure or arrival country. Unfortunately, global disability assistance for air travel is not consistent, and you may find you’re required to pay a fee or that help is not available at all.

Should you not receive adequate assistance and care, and wish to lodge feedback, you can speak with the airline company. Should you then wish to take the case further, you can get in touch with the Civil Aviation Authority.