Most travelers with disabilities already know about these services, says Candy Harrington, editor of the Accessible Travel newsletter. Emerging horizons“but passengers with an injury or temporary disability may not be aware of this.”
What services do airports offer for travelers with injuries?
- Wheelchair: They are generally available to anyone who feels they need them. You can request a wheelchair through your airline or airport when you arrive, but it’s best to contact the airline in advance to reserve one. If you are connecting, don’t forget to request a wheelchair at the connecting airport.
- Early boarding and expedited control: Most airports have a network of employees who can help you get to your gate, including getting through security faster (and without you having to get up or move around too much). You can also board the plane early – a Platinum card is not required.
- Seat updates: Injured people can, in certain circumstances, get a better seat. For example, United Airlines says so It can help you find a seat with more legroom. within the same class of service if you call ahead. As a passenger with a heart condition, travel advisor Francesca Elisabetta Owens says she rarely has to worry about a seat assignment. “I know that after I book my ticket, I can call the specific airline’s disability desk to be upgraded for free under certain conditions,” she says. It’s not an automatic upgrade to business class or first class, she says, but she often enters premium economy class, which has a little more legroom.
What services are changing?
Last summer, the Department of Transportation compiled a bill of rights for passengers with disabilitiesreiterating a federal law that requires airlines and airports to offer accessible assistance and facilities.
Although the list did not include any new policies, airlines quickly agreed Redouble your efforts to guarantee passenger accessibility.. That included improving passenger transfers and the handling of personal mobility aids, such as motorized wheelchairs, as well as providing better employee training.
Those efforts are already underway, and long overdue, disability advocates say. Last month, for example, San José International received a federal grant of approximately $11 million make improvements to the airport terminal and upgrades to ensure it complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Disability-related complaints are on the rise. During the first nine months of 2022, the the government reported 1,495 complaints about airline disability services, an increase of 64 percent from that period last year. American Airlines had the most complaints among domestic airlines (207) during that time, and Malaysia Airlines had the most complaints for a foreign airline (41).
Tips for flying with an injury
As someone who regularly travels without any disability, I must admit that I had no idea of the facilities offered to people who are temporarily disabled.
My accident was a combination of risky behavior, bad luck, and terrible conditions. One minute I was spinning around in the early-season snow, and the next minute I was lying on a patch of ice, unable to move.
A helicopter took me to Graubünden hospital, where I underwent X-rays and CT scans. I didn’t have time to research airline disability policies. Fortunately, my college-age children, who were traveling with me, took charge and He learned about the services at Zurich airport for people with reduced mobility..
Did I arrive in Madrid? Barely. I almost missed the train and then, after struggling to find a wheelchair and an elevator, I almost missed the flight. I learned an important lesson about traveling with an injury: you have to put in a lot of time. Even with all the assistance provided, you will need at least an extra hour to get to your door.
I fumbled with my crutches during pre-boarding and almost fell several times. A friendly flight attendant helped me to my seat. Fortunately, we had requested wheelchair assistance in Madrid When do we land. An airport employee took us to the sidewalk and helped me into the car.
Experts say I was smart to fly out of a big airport. William Rankinprofessor of airport management at the Florida Institute of Technology, says larger airports like Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County and Reagan National have more resources to help travelers.
“They can provide services on a larger scale,” he says.
Smaller airports may have a limited number of wheelchairs or staff who are not adequately trained to assist disabled passengers.
Three weeks after my trip to Spain, I took a flight to Buenos Aires and then returned to the United States. This time I had no excuse not to prepare. I knew I could call Air Europa Special Services Department to ask about an upgrade to premium economy, but I was still in denial about the severity of my injury. I didn’t need any special treatment, I thought.
But I did it. On the 13-hour red-eye flight to Argentina, my broken bones started hurting badly after a few hours of sitting. The same thing happened with the flight from Argentina back to the United States. I should have called united airlines and asked for a seat with more space.
That’s lesson 2 about traveling with an injury: don’t be a hero. Inform your airline of your injury at least 48 hours before your flight. Ask about anything you might need: any vacancies for an upgrade, a wheelchair, and wheelchair assistance.
Also, let the Transportation Security Administration know you are coming. A common mistake injured airline passengers make is overlooking safety, says Heather Ansley, associate executive director of government relations at Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA). She recommends contacting TSA to let the agency know you will be passing through the screening area.
Don’t forget the paperwork
The most important thing to remember about airport disability services in the United States is that you do not have to prove that you are disabled.
“No tests, no doctor’s note,” Harrington says. “That’s important, because many people don’t take advantage of the services available because they believe they don’t qualify.”
But that doesn’t mean you’re free from responsibility. When I showed up on crutches for my flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, Argentina, a ticket agent asked for a “fit to fly” note from my doctor. He insisted that it had to be written specifically for that flight. I had a doctor’s note from my Swiss hospital written in German. I showed it to them and after some negotiations, the airline finally allowed me to board. But gate agents can deny you boarding if you appear too sick to travel.
And here’s an insider tip: If you’ve purchased travel insurance, you should also review your policy before your flight. If you are injured while traveling, the insurer may agree to provide a medical escort to accompany you on a commercial flight, says John Gobbels, director of operations for the air medical transportation and travel safety program. medjet. “You need to read his policy,” she says. “It may be covered.”