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Is Wheelchair Assistant at the Airport Free?

Sometimes, you might need assistance to catch your flights. Perhaps you have a disability that makes walking impossible or you just got out of surgery. You may have had an accident a day or two before your flight, making the walk around the airport very painful.

This is exactly where airport wheelchair assistance sets in. A lot of people have been asking if wheelchair assistance at the airport is free. Well, the answer is ‘yes’. However, you can always leave a tip with whoever provides you with the wheelchair assistance you need while at the airport. An airport assistant will help carry your luggage, take you to different areas of the airport, push you from behind (if you are using a manual wheelchair), etc. 

Although wheelchairs can go through airport security with a passenger on them, they usually get extra close inspections. So ensure that you arrive at the airport earlier than usual to provide yourself with the right amount of time you need to go through the entire process without being rushed (and without going through the risk of being held back at the airport for so long that you miss your flight).

Do not worry if you find it hard to go through the scanners and metal detectors. You can get screened even while sitting in your wheelchair. This process often includes screening for signs of explosives and visual inspection. It also has to do with physical supervision in the form of a pat-down, which is crucial since passengers who are wheelchair bound cannot walk through electronic screening devices. You can ask for a private pat-down if you want. You will also be required to place all your carry-on items and detachable wheelchair items such as baskets, assembly tools, and saddlebags on the X-ray device belt. Below are other things you need to know before taking your wheelchair to the airport. 

How To Overcome Wheelchair Assistance Challenges

Most passengers with disability problems often use wheelchair assistance while at the airport. However, airlines have observed that a lot of passengers without disabilities now use wheelchairs to avoid security screening lines. Because of these, most airports demand that all those with mobility problems wait a while for their wheelchair assistant to arrive. This problem is best solved by giving yourself plenty of time to check-in and go through a security search.

On a few occasions, airline passengers who are wheelchair bound have been assisted to the baggage claim area or other parts of the airport and abandoned there by random strangers who offered to help. Your best solution in this kind of situation is a phone that is specifically programmed with useful phone numbers. Call friends, family, or a cab if you are in this kind of situation.

Although 99% of airlines have forty-eight to seventy-two hours notice, you can always ask for wheelchair assistance when you get to your airport check-in counter. Give yourself a lot of extra time if you plan on requesting a wheelchair attendant at the last minute.

Check To See If You Will Be Assisted At The Airport

The day to your flight, contact the airports to confirm if you will receive wheelchair assistance. Check-in can be done online, through software, or even at the airport. Most airlines advise arriving at the airport at least one or two hours before the flight takes off, but those who are wheelchair-bound are advised to arrive early; this will help them clear security, to inspect their wheelchair and other equipment, and help them get assisted around the airport.

At security, most airports will need to inspect your wheelchair before getting to the clearing security checkpoints. If this is the case, you will be provided with a terminal wheelchair – and an assistant as well – to guide you through the airport. Make sure your personal belongings are removed from your equipment, including backpacks and bags. Security will help you through the entire process, so don’t hesitate to ask for assistance or to ask questions. 

When you get to your gate, talk to the airline staff at the terminal pre-boarding. Once pre-boarding starts and you find your way to the plane, you will have to be moved to an aisle-sized wheelchair. Passenger planes have an aisle width of fifteen inches (minimum). Before leaving your private wheelchair, protect or completely remove any sensitive electronics, such as the control stick for a power chair, and remove all modifications likely to be broken during transportation, such as a headrest. If you own an advanced wheelchair, get it engaged in free-wheel mode. Finally, make sure you take your cushion along with you and use it on-board during your flight.

Ask About In-Flight Restroom Assistance

During flights, you may have limited bathroom options. Few airlines may be willing to take you to the bathroom through an aisle wheelchair. This is why it is very important to book an aisle seat if you can. Some people that are wheelchair-bound have used adult incontinence products or catheters to avoid the troubles of utilizing the airplane restroom during the flight.

For shorter plane travels, you may be able to completely avoid needing restroom assistance, especially if you had already used a handicap-accessible restroom at the airport before entering the plane and have lowered your fluid consumption until you land. There could be delays when traveling, dehydration can create other problems. So, be careful if you plan on completely skipping the fluids. Also, ask the airport about in-flight restroom assistance before booking a flight. 

In case You Own An Power Wheelchair

If you plan on using a power wheelchair to move from one gate to another at connecting airports, then bare in mind that the duration between connecting flights may not be enough for an airport attendant to retrieve – and, if need be, assemble – your wheelchair. For this particular reason, during layovers, passengers who are wheelchair bound are advised to use the airport wheelchair to move from one gate to another. 

Also, bear in mind that airlines swap airplanes all the time, which implies that the aircraft assigned to your travel during booking may not be the same plane that will get used. Thus, contact the airline a day or two before your flight date to verify if it has your reservation ready (for you and your wheelchair), and to confirm the size of the cargo compartment doors. Until your flight takes off, be ready for last-minute changes—even those that might involve the disassembling of your wheelchair.

Escort Passes

An individual taking you around the airport can ask for an escort pass from the airline. Escort passes look just like boarding passes. Escort passes are usually issued by the airline staff at the check-in counters. With the help of an escort pass, your attendant can accompany you to the departure gate or pick you up at the arrival gate. Not all airlines give escort passes at all airports. 

Find Out If You Will Be Assisted To Get On Board With Your Wheelchair

If you have decided to take your wheelchair (whether it is your chair or one you are renting) on board with you, then find out if there will be anyone to assist you before going onboard. If you will be assisted (most airports assist people in wheelchairs), you will avoid a lot of trouble by allowing the airport attendant to deal with the stress of getting your wheelchair on the plane. If you prefer using an aisle wheelchair while on the plane, then keep reading to learn more. 

If you use a power wheelchair, then the airline agent might take out the batteries from your such mobility device or might even go as far as disconnecting it as this is part of safety precaution. To lower the possibility of batteries removal, ensure that you know exactly how to disconnect and reconnect your wheelchair batteries (this can be practiced at home even before your trip) Or ask for help. 

At Your Destination Airport

Your airport wheelchair assistant will be waiting for you upon your arrival. Such an individual will help you get to the baggage claim part of the airport. If you wish to use the restroom, you’ll need to inform the attendant, he or she will take you.

SUMMARY

Is wheelchair assistance at the airport free? In a few words – yes, it is. Nevertheless, there are some challenges. It can be very difficult to ask for wheelchair assistance if you haven’t been to an airport before. However, do not hold yourself back from going on that special trip. 

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