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General Travel Tips for Persons with Disabilities

Arrange Your Travel Ahead of Time

Under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and DOT’s disability rules, passengers are generally not required to provide advanced notice for disability-related accommodations.  However, it’s a good idea to call your airline in advance to arrange for:

  • A wheelchair or other guided assistance to board, deplane, or connect to another flight;
  • A seating accommodation that meets your disability-related needs; and/or
  • The loading and stowing of any assistive device.

Note: Providing detailed information about the accommodations you need in advance will assist airline personnel providing those accommodations in a correct and timely manner.

Advance Notice Requirements

In certain cases, an airline can require the passenger to provide advance notice as a condition of traveling on the airline or receiving services associated with the passenger’s disability.  An airline may require that a passenger with a disability provide the airline with up to 48 hours advance notice and to check-in at least one hour before their flight if the passenger wishes to receive any of the following services, types of equipment, or accommodations:

  • Hook-up for a respirator to the aircraft electrical power supply;
  • Hazardous materials packaging for a wheelchair battery or other assistive device;
  • Medical oxygen for use onboard the aircraft, if this service is offered by the airline;
  • Transportation for a powered wheelchair on an aircraft with fewer than 60 seats;
  • Provision of an onboard wheelchair on an aircraft that does not have an accessible lavatory;
  • Accommodation for a group of ten or more individuals with a disability, who make reservations and travel as a group;
  • Accommodation for a passenger who must travel in a stretcher; or
  • Carriage of an incubator.

Note: If a passenger does not meet the advance notice or check-in requirement, airlines must make a reasonable effort to provide the requested service, but are not required to if delay the flight in order to do so.

Be Informed, Be Prepared

  • Confirm your accessibility needs with all airlines involved in your journey.
  • Check your flight status before arriving at the airport.
  • Check into your flight and arrive at the airport as early as possible to allow time to check any baggage, go through the security screening, and board the plane.
  • Be alert to gate and flight time changes and notify airline personnel of your need to move to a different gate, if necessary.
  • Because airline personnel may not be familiar with your particular assistive device, consider:
    • Providing written instructions detailing the disassembly, assembly, and stowage of your device; and
    • Taking a picture of your device before your flight to capture its condition.
  • Airlines must have a priority space for at least one folding manual wheelchair on aircraft with 100 or more seats; you must request to pre-board the flight in order to have the opportunity to stow your wheelchair in the aircraft cabin.
  • If you need to use your assistive device during the flight, you can request that the flight crew help you retrieve it from the stowage space.
  • Carry medicine or other assistive devices like syringes as a carry-on item.  Passengers, at times, get separated unexpectedly from checked baggage. If you do decide to carry medication or other assistive devices with you on board, the items cannot be counted towards your carry-on baggage limit.
  • Bring photocopies of instructions about the assembly and disassembly of wheelchairs and other assistive devices when you access air transportation may be a good idea. You can provide that information to carrier personnel storing or checking your wheelchair or assistive device.

Encounter A Problem?

  • If you believe your rights under the Air Carrier Access Act are being or have been violated, ask to speak with a Complaints Resolution Official (CRO). A CRO is the airline’s expert on disability accommodation issues. Airlines are required to make one available to you, at no cost, in person at the airport or by telephone during the times they are operating.
Updated: Wednesday, November 15, 2017
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