Travelling with a Disability

50x50 disability Consult your doctor about:

  • Your need for immunizations/vaccinations
  • To ensure that you have all the prescriptions you will need for the duration of your trip (and some spare for emergencies)
  • All the medical equipment you may need and any spare parts you might need in an emergency.
  • Recommendations for any non-prescription medications you might need such as pain killers, sun lotion, laxatives, spare glasses etc.
  • How to get medical assistance when you are away. Contact addresses for nearby hospitals etc., emergency telephone numbers and quality of health care in the country you are visiting.

50x50 disability Consult your travel agent about:

  • What special assistance you can expect from the hotel, tour group, transportation company etc. you intend to use while you are way.
  • What sort of accommodations will be needed throughout your trip, be it, car rental or organising seating on planes, coaches, cruises etc.
  • Whether any special dietary needs will be sufficiently met at hotels/restaurants at your destination.
  • Whether the hotel you intend to stay at has toilets suited to disabled travellers.
  • If you are renting a car, we h3ly recommend that you call beforehand and check that a hands control car will be available.
You will inevitably also need to carry a placard indicating that you are disabled. Your travel agent/car hire company should be able to provide information on finding out how to get a temporary placard for the country you will be visiting before you depart. Try and book as much as possible before you leave so that you can ensure that they accommodate your various needs, or so that they can make the relevant preparations to accommodate your requirements.  In short, advanced preparation can save you a lot of time and effort in the long run. It is far easier to solve any problems from home, than in a foreign country where you may have to deal with language barriers. Wheelchair users should make sure that their chair is in full working order and have a maintenance check in advance of the trip. Likewise, ensure that you have basic tools and parts for the assembly and repair of your wheelchair, in the event that something goes amiss. Do not assume that you will readily be able to access wheelchair parts in other countries to fit your own type of chair.

50x50 disability Information about the Aircraft and Who To Fly With

Flying with a disability entitles you to a variety of information services about your journey, so that you can plan your trip and as best as possible. Planning ahead is essential if you are a disabled traveller, given the number of additional barriers you are likely to encounter. Access to a range of information such as the provision for disabled facilities is essential to planning your flight. You should always check to see if there are any limitations to the aircraft itself, question whether it will be able to accommodate you. Inside the aircraft think about what amenities you will need. Does the aircraft have movable seats for wheelchairs; can your wheelchair be stored on the plane or in the cargo bay? Is there access to the toilet for disabled travellers. Airlines should always be able to answer these questions and if not immediately, be willing to get back to you once they have made their own enquiries. For travellers hard of hearing, airlines should provide all facilities accessible to the average traveller by providing telecommunication devices for the deaf or text telephones.

50x50 disability Airport authority responsibility within the EU

It is now the responsibility of the airport operators, within the EU to assist anyone with a disability during their time at the airport including intellectual disability or impairment, age or any other cause of disability. Airlines should provide the airport operator with advance information so that the appropriate service can be offered.

50x50 disability Mobility assistance provided at the airport

If mobility assistance is required to get you through the airport, request it before or once you have made your booking, so that this service can be provided.

50x50 disability Travelling with your own wheelchair

Once you have made your booking, inform the airline if you are travelling in your own wheelchair or other mobility aid, so they can make the necessary arrangements to help you make the most of your journey.
  • Collapsible wheelchairs and mobility aids can be stored in the aircraft cabin, where space is available. If space is not available in the cabin, your wheelchair will be carried in the hold.
  • On some airlines you can take an unlimited number of mobility aids, e.g. wheelchairs, if they are for personal use only. These are generally carried free of charge in addition to the applicable checked baggage allowance.
  • Wherever possible you will be able to stay in your own wheelchair/mobility aid to and from the aircraft side.
  • At airports where it is not possible to take your wheelchair/mobility aid to the gate they may have to take it at check-in and give it back to you in the arrivals baggage hall of your destination airport.
  • The airline will need to know the size and weight of your wheelchair so have these details to hand when you tell them you are bringing it with you.
  • If you already have a booking with some airlines you can request mobility assistance to help you through the airport.

50x50 disability Preparing battery powered wheelchairs for travel

It is your responsibility to provide sufficient information about your wheelchair/mobility aid and batteries prior to travel. Dependent upon the type of wheelchair/mobility aid being used, a number of safety measures will need to be taken before the flight and you will need to provide information to facilitate airport staff to assist you.

50x50 disability For wheelchairs/mobility aids with dry cell batteries or non-spillable (including gel) batteries

Protect the wheelchair/mobility aid from inadvertent operation i.e. remove the key, deactivate using the joystick, deactivate using an isolation switch or buttons. If you cannot do this you will need to disconnect the battery and protect it against short circuiting by insulating battery terminals.

50x50 disability For wheelchairs/mobility aids powered by wet-cell (spillable) batteries

  • Remove all connections from the battery terminals.
  • Protect the battery terminals to prevent short circuits by covering the terminals with electrical insulating tape or plastic caps.
  • Ensure that the battery/batteries are securely fastened and installed in the wheelchair/mobility aid battery tray.
To ensure safe carriage of your wheelchair/mobility aid it would be very helpful if you brought the manufacturer’s instructions (re: disconnection of batteries) with you to the airport. Please note that you cannot travel with wet-cell batteries for any purpose other than for powering wheelchairs.

50x50 disability Companions providing assistance will be required if you are unable to independently:

  • lift yourself
  • reach an emergency exit unaided
  • communicate with the crew on safety matters
  • unfasten a seat belt
  • retrieve and fit a life jacket
  • fit an oxygen mask
The crew cannot assist you with breathing apparatus, eating, medication or going to the toilet, although they will help you get to and from the toilet when there is an on-board wheelchair available.

50x50 disability Facilities on board the aircraft

  • On-board wheelchairs are available on all flights over 5 hours.
  • Adapted toilets with handrails on Boeing 747 aircraft.
  • A number of seats with lifting armrests for ease of access.
  • We will do our best to allocate you a seat that is most suitable to your needs. We will not be able to seat you in an emergency exit or cross aisles which form part of an emergency exit, due to safety regulations.

50x50 disability Visually impaired passengers

If you are visually impaired, some airlines can offer:
  • An escort to and from the aircraft.
  • Individual safety briefings and assistance during the flight.

50x50 disability Hearing impaired passengers

If you are hearing impaired, some airlines can offer:
  • An escort to and from the aircraft.
  • Separate briefings about safety procedures.
  • Subtitles on the English version of the in-flight safety video.
  • Induction loop facilities are available at most airports and on board through in-flight headphones.
  • Headphones compatible with standard hearing aids switched to the 'T' position.

50x50 disability Travelling with Guide/Assistance Dogs

Certified Assistance Dogs for blind, deaf or disabled passengers travel free of charge in the aircraft cabin on some airlines services within the UK. In addition Assistance Dogs that are compliant with the Pet Travel Scheme may be carried, in the cabin of the aircraft on certain international routes.

50x50 disability Working together with the airline

It is always a good idea to let the airline know in advance that you intend to fly. Even if this is not strictly necessary, by just making sure that they are equipped to accommodate your needs on the day can make a big difference to the ease and safety of your journey. Arrange to arrive at least an hour prior to the usual check in time to accommodate a longer check-in, particularly if you are travelling with a wheelchair. Advance notice should be given if you need the provision of an on-board wheelchair, or if the battery for your chair is classified as a hazardous material. Carriers are not obliged to provide certain services and it is important to not assume that the airline you are flying with will provide certain services. To avoid any issues on the day of flying, it is a good idea to provide at least 48hrs advance warning, if you require the use of medical oxygen, a supply of electricity for a respirator or any accommodations for travel on a stretcher. Sometimes airlines charge an additional fee for such services. Any additional charges incurred should be reasonable and imposed on a non-discriminatory basis. If the airline does not receive advance notice, then it is not bound to providing these types of services to the disabled traveller. There will inevitably be occasions where, due to unforeseen circumstances, an airline will not be able to accommodate those features of accessibility requested. Generally, this tends to be the case when for safety reasons the original aircraft may have to be substituted at the last minute. All aircrafts built today must provide accessible lavatories in wide-body aircrafts and similarly be incorporated into the refurbishment of all existing wide-body aircrafts.

50x50 disability Boarding and exiting the aircraft

Trained personnel should be prepared to assist you when boarding and exiting the aircraft. If a ramp is not available, then a lifting device must be provided to enable the traveller to enter the aircraft. With regard to smaller aircrafts, it may be the case that no lifting equipment is available, though the development of this type of equipment is currently in progress. Unfortunately, aircrafts made prior to 1992 do not have to adhere to these rules and regulations, though any refurbishment made must incorporate facilities to support disabled travellers.


Who To Fly With accepts no responsibility for any of the content contained herein. This site is intended entirely as a form of reference, we accept no responsibility for any accident, injury or misfortune which is a product of following any of the advice found herein, nor on any external sites we link to.

50x50 cartoon pic Reserving your Seats

More and more airlines now offer the option to reserve your seats online, either at the time you make your booking, or when you perform online check-in. This is the safest way to try and obtain the seat of your choice.  However, please remember that this is certainly not always a guarantee that you will actually receive this seat on your flight. The airline may change the aircraft type before you travel, so the seat numbers you have selected might either change, or not be in the position that you had expected. There are also many circumstances where the airline's system may decide to re-allocate your chosen seat to another passenger.

50x50 cartoon pic Front, Middle or Back of the Cabin

This is a matter of personal choice, but on a wide-body aircraft you will generally find that the front of the Economy cabin is the quietest, normally just in front of the aircraft engines. The rear of the cabin has a tendency to be the noisiest from an engine noise perspective and also moves around more during turbulence. For the meal services, it is more complex to suggest where you are likely to be offered the full choice of meals before they run out. Some airlines start meal services from the front of the cabin, some the middle, and a few from the back of the cabin.

50x50 cartoon pic Aisle, Middle or Window Seat

In most instances, the least preferred seat is the middle seat, particularly on those airlines where the centre section of cabin seating might provide a 5 across layout. If you draw the middle seat, you have to ask two passengers to move each time you want to stretch your legs, use the bathroom etc. If you want to get on the flight and sleep with as little interruptions as possible, then a window seat may be the best option.  You also get the outer cabin wall to lean against, rather than falling asleep on other passengers. Remember however that the cabin walls on some aircraft have more curvature than others and the window seat can sometimes feel as if it has less shoulder-room than ordinary seats. The aisle seat gives you easy access to move around, but worth remembering that you might be standing up and sitting down for passengers seated next to you. The aisle seat positions can also be susceptible to knocks as passengers walk past or try to squeeze past service carts in the cabin.

50x50 cartoon pic An Exit Row or Bulkhead Seat

Many airlines now charge an additional fee to sit in the exit rows, others will allocate at check-in.  You do get a lot more leg room in an exit seat but on the downsides there are a few things to consider. You will not be allowed to keep any items of hand-luggage by your seat/footwell area during landing and take-off times and the bins above your seat may be full by the time you realise. Also, the exit row seats will not have a PTV entertainment screen on the back of the seat in front but will have the video screen stored in the armrest - similar for the meal tray table which will be stored in your armrest. Due to this design layout, you might find that the actual seat width is less than ordinary seats and it can be quite awkward using the PTV and tray tables. Bulkhead seats are located immediately behind a solid cabin divider. This is generally the location where a bassinet is provided for families with babies, so can be noisier. Whilst you have no seat reclining in front of you, the legroom may at first seem spacious but you will find that stretching your legs is not possible like in an ordinary seat. Bulkhead seats also endure the tray table will be in the seat armrest, and this can be burdensome when left with a finished meal tray for long periods of time. Another important point with the extended space around the exit rows is that on some flights you may find that passengers from elsewhere in the cabin decide that this is a good place to congregate and chat, do their stretching exercises etc, and it can therefore be a rather busy space. It is also always worth watching out for those middle seat rows in the aircraft that look like there is a lot of legroom. This might be the case, but you can find that your hoped for space in front is being used as a cabin cross-over passage, as passengers go to the washrooms etc.

50x50 cartoon pic Avoiding the Toilet and Galley Areas

Aside from the obvious fact that being seated next to or right behind the toilet can result in unpleasant odours wafting around you, the toilet flush is extremely noisy on most aircrafts and you will find this incessant noise interruption very annoying after several hours.  During the sleep periods you may also tire of the light interruption every time passengers open the washroom door and similar to some bulkhead/exit seat positions, you will find that there are often a lot of passengers milling around your seat area as they queue for the washroom. Being seated next to or opposite the Galley areas can also be an unpleasant choice.  You will find that the level of pedestrian traffic (cabin staff and passengers) is significantly higher, the curtains may not always be kept shut so you get light intrusion, and as hard as staff might try, the preparation and clearance of meals will result in the galleys being quite noisy for these periods of the flight.

50x50 cartoon pic The Legroom Space

On many long haul aircrafts, some passengers will find that their foot space (ie the area under the seat in front) is impacted by the position of the control box for the In Flight Entertainment (IFE). This is something that is steadily being changed and improved by seat suppliers. Across many airlines, the IFE control box might be located in the aisle seat footwell area, although for some it is the window or middle seat that suffers.

50x50 cartoon pic The Seat Pitch

Airline seat pitch guides give you an indication of the amount of legroom you can expect. Economy class cabins on long haul flights generally offer 31 to 32 inches seat pitch (the industry standard), with a smaller number of airlines providing 33 to 35 inches of seat pitch. The higher the seat pitch, the fewer the number of seats an airline can fit into the cabin. With newer "slimline" seats being introduced by some airlines, the seat pitch dimension can become slightly distorted. A 32 inch seat pitch with a new, slimline seat may offer as much "personal" space as an older style seat in say 33 inch seat pitch.

50x50 cartoon pic Flight Hints

  • Try to book a flight that leaves in the evening or at night. That way you can treat your trip as a normal night where you go to sleep and wake up at your new destination or transfer point.
  • Get to the airport at least 2 hours before your flight departs.
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing that looks nice (e.g. Comfortable slacks and over-blouse or polo/golf shirt).
  • Make sure that nothing is tight at waist, hips, legs or shoulders.
  • Bring a good book
  • Try to get seats on a bulkhead or exit row or an aisle seat.
  • Stand up and move around whenever you are awake or at the very least just stand and lift legs and stretch for a few minutes.
  • Once the plane has disembarked and the seatbelt sign has been switched off, look for a vacant row where no one is sitting. Move to that row, lift up the armrests and lie down and sleep or just put your feet up.
  • Drink lots of water.  Whenever the flight attendants offer you water or juice, take one.
  • Take off your shoes and wear socks or footies on the plane.
  • Do not drink more than one or two alcoholic beverages as they dehydrate your body.
  • Do not drink caffeine beverages as they may affect your sleep.

50x50 cartoon pic Light Carry-On Bag Inclusions

  • Book and/or magazine
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste and maybe a "travel-size" of mouthwash
  • Deodorant
  • Pack of makeup removal pads and/or packs of wet wipes.
  • Camera
  • Passports and visas
  • A few snack foods
  • Reading glasses
  • Aspirin or Tylenol (Panadol) and any other medications you feel you may need.
  • Light sweater or jacket if necessary
Try not to make your bag too heavy as you may have to carry it long distances through airports.

50x50 cartoon pic Travel Clothing Guidelines

Who To Fly With suggests the following clothing if you were travelling to the Tropics:
  • Nice T-shirts (or Women’s Tees) or polo/golf shirts
  • Shorts
  • Skirt or light dress
  • Blouses or dress shirts (2-4), if desired.
  • Slacks (khakis for men or capri pants for women).
  • It is suggested you not bring jeans as they are too hot for this climate and are bulky to pack. Jean shorts are okay.
  • Bathing suit and cover-up/sarongs
  • Cotton underwear
  • Light cotton nighties (women) or pyjamas
  • Cheap flip-flops or beach sandals to wear around the pool or on the beach
  • Good sandals and/or walking/cross-trainer shoes.
  • Socks if wearing walking/cross-trainer shoes
  • Pair of dress shoes (or nice flats or sandals for women. No high heels. Also you may want to bring nylon footies to wear with your flats as panty hose may be too hot.)
  • Wide brim hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Light-weight rain jacket with hood or a fold-up umbrella

50x50 cartoon pic Hints for Electronics

  • Make sure that the chargers for all electronic "toys" (e.g. video or digital cameras) or electrical appliances (e.g. hair dryer, shaver) operate on dual voltage (110/220 volts).) An alternative is to carry a small 220-110 transformer.
  • Obtain a "multi-plug" converter that will allow you to convert the electrical item plug to the wall outlet configuration in the country to which you are travelling. This "converter" will not convert the voltage. The unit you want to plug in must operate on both 110 volts or 220 volts or have a switch which will allow you to change voltage.

50x50 cartoon pic Other Items

Who To Fly With suggests you also take the following items:
  • Prescription Medications that you may need
  • Personal hygiene items such as:
  • Shampoo/conditioner
  • Hair dryer and/or curling iron that is dual-voltage (110/220volts)
  • Deodorant
  • Feminine hygiene items
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Battery operated shaver with charger (make sure charger is dual voltage)
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect Repellent
  • Travel Iron that is dual voltage (110/220 volts)
  • A few first aid items such as band-aids and antiseptic.
  • Favourite cold medications as you may pick up a "bug" on the flight.
  • Hand sanitizer (waterless hand cleaner) in bottle or towelettes such as Purell Hand Sanitizer


Who To Fly With accepts no responsibility for any of the content contained herein. This site is intended entirely as a form of reference, we accept no responsibility for any accident, injury or misfortune which is a product of following any of the advice found herein, nor on any external sites we link to.
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