If you or someone you’re travelling with uses a wheelchair or mobility aid, this advice can help you fly safely.
Planning your travel
When you book your flight:
- book in advance
- tell the airline you use a wheelchair or mobility aid
- tell the airline you if need an aisle chair, and if you need one to go to the toilet during the flight
- ask for an aisle seat with armrests that move up and down, if available.
Make sure you ask about the aircraft type on which you’ll be flying.
Examples of larger aeroplanes that have at least one accessible toilet and an aisle chair available include:
- Boeing 747
- Boeing 767
- Boeing 777
- Boeing 787
- Airbus A330
- Airbus A340
- Airbus A380.
At least 48 hours before your flight, make sure the airline has all your requests.
Before you get to the airport, make sure you know:
- how to transfer between chairs
- how to disassemble and reassemble your wheelchair
- how to make easy repairs
- the contact details of a wheelchair repair shop at your destination.
Wheelchairs and mobility aids with non-spillable batteries
If you’re travelling with a battery-powered wheelchair or mobility aid, contact the airline before your flight.
If your wheelchair or mobility aid uses non-spillable batteries, they must comply with the International Civil Aviation Organisation's Special Provision A67 and Packing Instruction 872. The battery manufacturer can probably tell you if the battery meets this. The material safety data sheet (MSDS) may have this information.
When you’re on the aeroplane, prevent the wheelchair battery terminals short-circuiting by both:
- enclosing the battery in a battery container
- securing the battery in place.
During the flight:
- ensure your wheelchair or mobility aid can’t accidentally turn on or operate
- try to protect it from damage.
When you arrive at the airport
Give yourself plenty of time before your flight leaves.
Checking in your wheelchair or mobility aid
You must check in your wheelchair or mobility aid as checked luggage. Make sure you ask for a gate check tag. This tells the ground crew to make sure your wheelchair or mobility aid is at the gate for you when the aircraft arrives.
- clearly label all equipment
- remove seat cushions and similar parts that could fall off during transit (and keep these with you as carry-on luggage)
- disconnect and remove any visible battery wires
- if possible, use gel or dry-cell batteries instead of acid-filled batteries
- attach instructions to your wheelchair to help crew disassemble and reassemble it
- carry some basic maintenance tools with you
You should also ask cabin crew to return your equipment to you if you have a stopover. This will give you some independence while you wait for the next flight, and reduce the risk of things getting lost or damaged.
If you use a fold-up wheelchair, ask the cabin crew if they can store it in an onboard locker. This may not be possible, but always check.
Boarding the aircraft
You can’t use a regular wheelchair onboard the aircraft due to the width of the aisle. You must use another type to get to your allocated seat.
An aisle chair will help you get to and from your seat if you can’t walk yourself.
Aisle chairs are best used with an aisle seat, so ask to swap if you don’t get an aisle seat.
Disembarking the aircraft
Wheelchairs and mobility aids in the cargo hold should be the first items unloaded from the aircraft.
You should get your wheelchair or mobility aid back as close as possible to the door of the aeroplane, unless you’ve asked them to deliver it somewhere else.
Inspect your equipment for any damage immediately.