How to Request for Wheelchair Assistance at the Airport

When you rely on a wheelchair for mobility, getting to your destination can be more challenging than it needs to be. 

Believe it or not, millions of wheelchair users still have issues boarding a plane with their wheelchair. Getting on a plane with a wheelchair is harder than you think, which is why you may need assistance to board a plane.

The situation is even worse for people traveling with someone in a wheelchair and don’t have any idea what to do.

Some wheelchair users find it difficult to travel through airports because they have to navigate an environment designed for people who can walk.

Most airports are not as accessible as they might seem, even though they ought to be. Then there are cases where people would shove you aside just so that they can get to the gate before you.

You don’t need to worry too much.

In this article, I’m going to give you a complete guide on how to request wheelchair assistance at the airport.

Getting Wheelchair Assistance At The Airport

If you’re flying for the first time, you’ll need a hand with your wheelchair, especially when boarding the plane.

More than two decades of flying with my wife and a couple of friends that rely on a wheelchair for mobility, I’ve learned a couple of things and developed a checklist that would guarantee you get help at the airport upon request.

Whether you brought your wheelchair or collected one from the airport’s courtesy desk, this is a step-by-step guide on how to request wheelchair assistance at the airport.

1. Make A Wheelchair Reservation

Every airport has wheelchairs and electric carts for customer use.

Make a reservation for a wheelchair when booking your flight or buying plane tickets. This will alert the airport authorities of your presence and the best way to attend to you.

You can book a wheelchair online or call your airline and request wheelchair assistance at least 48 hours before you plan to travel.

If your preferred airline company has a customer helpline, you can call their customer service representative to make inquires about wheelchair boarding and special assistance. Once you have everything you need, you can go ahead to make your reservation.

The best thing about making a wheelchair reservation is that you don’t need to arrive early to get your transport wheelchair. Your chair would be ready for you with an airport attendant on standby just for you.

2. Arrive Early To Request Assistance Pre-boarding The Plane

If you want the airport staff to give you their undivided attention when you ask them for assistance, then you must be in the airport at least two hours before your flight.

Be in the airport early enough when staff is still prepping for your arrival and the gate is less crowded. If you do not arrive early, you may have to wait a bit for your wheelchair assistance.

When speaking to the airport attendant, inform the person of your needs and everything he needs to know so he/she can effectively provide the support you need.

Most airports have an experienced staff working with wheelchair users, so try to be calm.

Once you are at the airport, find a passenger assistant or customer service representative and request wheelchair accommodation and assistance in pre-boarding the plane.

3. Ask An Airport Staff For Assistance With Wheelchair Transfers

Not all airlines allow pre-boarding, so if your preferred airline doesn’t allow pre-boarding, you need to ask an airport staff to help you in entering or exiting the plane.

In some countries, airlines provide facilities for disabled persons, before their boarding, as part of their wheelchair assistance program. You can notify the staff at the gate of your disability and request assistance.

You should head to the airline’s ticketing counter and request wheelchair assistance.

Once you inform the check-in attendant of your condition, they will get you a transport chair, take your wheelchair to the cargo area [if you use a non-collapsible wheelchair, scooter, or other battery-powered wheelchairs], and use ramps, slide boards, or aisle chair to help you board the plane.

If you’d like assistance when entering or exiting the plane, inform a staff, airline flight attendants, or security personnel nearby to wheelchair assistance for you.

Once they do, they will get the wheelchair you reserved and assist you with both your departing and connecting flights.

Don’t know what to say? Just walk up to the ticketing counter and say something like;

“Hello, my flight is in 20 minutes and I’d like to request a transport chair and wheelchair assistance to get Gate A. Here’s my plane ticket”.

I bet that you’d get assistance right away.

FAQs About Requesting for Wheelchair Assistance

Below are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about requesting wheelchair assistance at the airport.

How Much Should I Tip Airport Wheelchair Attendants?

How much you decide to tip an airport staff is totally on you. You can tip as high as $20 or as low as $3. However, most people feel comfortable tipping airport staff $10.

While tipping airport staff at the gate or flight attendants isn’t necessary, it is a show of kind gesture and a physical form of genuine appreciation.

How Do I Enter & Exit The Plane from My Wheelchair? 

All airlines and airports in the country have staff, mobility aids, and equipment for passengers with disabilities. One of the most common equipments used for helping disabled passengers is an aisle chair.

Aisle chairs are designed to transport disabled passengers in and out of the plane without any discomfort. Some airline companies use other mobility gadgets like lifts, ramps, or even slide boards.

Do I Have To Pay To Take My Wheelchair On a Plane?

If you rely on a wheelchair or mobility scooter for movement, you are not required to pay for your mobility vehicle because it does not count as luggage.

Once you board the plane, your wheelchair will be transferred to the cabin or the cargo bay for storage.

What Do I Do If I Get To the Airport Late As A Wheelchair User?

If you get to the airport late as a wheelchair user, you can ask the nearest airport personnel for assistance in locating and boarding your designated plane. If you can get to the gate on time, it’s just your lucky day.

However, if you miss your flight, you’d have to go back home to buy another plane ticket because there is nothing anyone can do for you.

The airport is a very busy place with lots of commotion and crowds. This may prove to be hectic for individuals who are wheelchair-bound.

For people with disability disabilities, wheelchair assistance at the airport is super helpful.

The government of the United States has done a lot to ensure that all wheelchair users can enjoy the luxury of a safe and comfortable flight. The Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 has made it compulsory for all US-based airlines to assist passengers with disabilities.

Wheelchair assistance in the airport or at any public transportation system makes traveling in a wheelchair easier. We’ve used this blog post to show share with you everything you need to know about requesting wheelchair assistance when boarding a plane.

Who Are We?

Wheelchaired is a proud member of the United Spinal Association and a disability blog dedicated to sharing guides and advice on issues concerning disability, mobility, accessible travel, and personal development.

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