Can I travel on an aeroplane with a wheelchair?
Before travelling, it is crucial to be aware of the accessibility features of any stations and airports you may be travelling through. For people with mobility disorders or who are wheelchair users, this information is important in order to make a journey as smooth as possible. Here with living-independently.com, we investigate the current issues facing wheelchair users when heading to the airport.
Current aviation regulations mean that wheelchairs cannot be taken on board an aeroplane. This is a ruling which has sparked a lot of debate, with questions of passenger safety and dignity arising in discussions. Consequent campaigns, such as the work of Flying Disabled, are suggesting that the government must act to implement legislation, to rethink policies on travelling with a disability. Airports are often hectic, busy environments but some prior knowledge can be useful to navigate accessible facilities such as toilets.
Wheelchairs must, at present, be stored in the hold of an aeroplane. The advice from Gov.uk outlines the importance of contacting your airline as soon as possible should you intend on travelling with a wheelchair or mobility aid; however the impacts of being without mobility assistance are often difficult to resolve. Typically, airline policies should include some guidance or help for the boarding process, to ensure that the traveller feels safe. Travel is a notoriously wealthy industry, and ABTA have found that there are currently more than 11 million disabled people in the UK, which underlines the need for an increase in inclusivity.
Although airlines maintain the reason for this as being health and safety orientated, but their approach to this situation is often poor. A common problem faced by travellers is that their mobility aid may not fold up, and therefore cannot be stored, leaving the customer relatively helpless. There have also been numerous reports of chairs becoming damaged while in motion, which prompts questions of the treatment of accessible travel and the measures currently in place to support it.
Potential improvements include having a designated wheelchair area onboard a flight. While wheelchairs can be used safely to navigate the airport terminal itself, the issues faced on board can be avoided with enough planning ahead of travel. Requesting an aisle seat is helpful for getting to and from the toilet facilities, allowing for mobility while flying.
But many wheelchair users are often left stranded by a poor display of help by airlines. Multiple organisations are working to amplify this sentiment as wheelchairs are essentially the key to independence for those effected by disability, and policies of the travel industry could perhaps be doing more to appreciate this.