Monday 19 July 2010
Letter from Mr Peter Chambers
My wife and I are due to travel on holiday next month. This will be the first time that we have travelled with my wife in a wheelchair. Can you please give me some advice and tips to help us in planning this new undertaking.
The procedures followed by individual airlines may differ but the following summary is intended to be a common sense approach to answering your questions.
It is important that you tell the airline, or make sure that your travel agent tells the airline that your wife is travelling in her own wheelchair. The airline will need to know the size and weight of your wheelchair to make the necessary arrangements for your journey.
As a general rule, the airline will store collapsible wheelchairs and other mobility aids in the aircraft cabin but, if cabin space is not available, they will be stored in the hold.
A wheelchair will be carried free of charge in addition to your checked baggage allowance. Some airlines, including British Airways, will carry up to two mobility aids free of charge.
Depending on the facilities at the airport, the airline will try to keep your wife in her own wheelchair to and from the aircraft door.
If the airport layout or the position of the aircraft does not permit this, she will be transferred to another wheelchair to take her to her seat. This may involve taking her chair from her at check-in and returning it to her in the arrivals hall of the destination airport.
Powered wheelchairs pose a particular challenge for the airlines and it will help you (to help them) if you can provide as much information as possible about the chair and its batteries. You should provide this information when booking but also have it with you when you travel.
For obvious safety reasons, the airline must be able to prevent inadvertent operation of the chair by isolating or deactivating the motors. They also need to protect against the battery short circuiting and causing a fire hazard.
If they do not have a simple and safe way of doing this, they may have to remove all connections from the battery terminals which will complicate things for you at the other end of the journey.
Many modern wheelchairs use sealed battery units and these may become mandatory for air travel. Wet-cell batteries are currently still permitted but are an obvious source of problems. In the unlikely event that your wife's chair has wet-cell batteries on an acid battery tray, we strongly recommend that you discuss this with her chair provider.
The airline crew are not nursing staff and, in many cases, will actually be prohibited from helping your wife. The rule is that passengers must be independent or be accompanied by a capable companion.
Civil Aviation Authority rules require that your wife (with your aid as a companion) be able to lift herself; reach an emergency exit unaided; communicate with the crew on safety matters; unfasten a seat belt; retrieve and fit a life jacket and fit an oxygen mask
The on-board facilities usually depend on the length of the flight. Most airlines provide aisle-chairs (an kind of on-board wheelchair) on flights over 5 hours.
We wish you and your wife well for your holiday and look forward to any feedback that you may wish to offer on your return.
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29 June 2011, 12:53PM
Very good post, I was really searching for this topic, as I wanted this topic to understand completely and it is also very rare in internet, that is why it was very difficult to understand.
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