Must-know airline info: Tips for travelers with disabilities

Travel can be stressful at the best of times, but when you have to factor in a disability, getting from point A to point B can become that much more frustrating. Airlines know this and do their part to make air travel as comfortable and seamless as they can for every passenger. Since each airline is different, they may have differing policies where travelers with disabilities are concerned.

We’re sharing some tips and information on what 23 major airlines do for travelers who need extra support when flying.

American Airlines
US Airways
Air Canada
Alaska Airlines
Hawaiian Airlines
Cathay Pacific
Etihad Airways
Japan Airlines
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
Singapore Airlines
Turkish Airlines
Virgin Atlantic


When flying with United, call the airline’s disability desk (800-228-2744) 48 hours in advance of travel if you’ll be traveling with an assistive device so they can ensure your device can be used in-flight. Any special needs you have should be mentioned when you make your reservation so the airline staff can do their best to help you. This includes the need for assistance getting to your gate, boarding, getting to your seat, deplaning or connecting.

Wheelchairs are available for use at each airport United uses, but if you don’t see one when you arrive you can ask a skycap or agent for help. Aisle wheelchairs for transferring non-ambulatory customers to and from their seats on the aircraft are also available, as are on-board wheelchairs in every aircraft with more than 60 seats. Some domestic and international airports may not have jet-bridges available for boarding, but in these cases, a passenger assist lift (PAL), mechanical lift, ramp or a stair chair may be used for boarding and deplaning.

In addition, certain seats on the aircraft are made available to passengers with a disability, but the request needs to be made at least 24 hours in advance of your scheduled flight. You can check your wheelchair or other assistive devices at the ticket counter or at the gate, and there is room for one collapsible wheelchair on board. If you want to use this space, request it when you identify yourself for pre-boarding.  Finally, here are United’s disability policies.


Delta personnel are available to assist passengers in boarding, deplaning and connecting with their flights, and most of the airline’s aircraft are subject to federal accessibility requirements for passengers with disabilities. Depending on the type and age of the aircraft, accessible features of Delta’s fleet include movable aisle armrests, wheelchair stowage locations, on-board wheelchairs and, on larger airplanes, wheelchair-accessible lavatories. Depending on the aircraft, they also provide movable aisle armrest seats so passengers who use aisle chairs to board the aircraft can more easily transfer into their seats. If you your seat doesn’t have a movable armrest and you need one, a gate agent or in-flight personnel can see if another seat with a movable armrest is available on your flight.

Delta also provides a designated location on board most aircraft for stowing one personal wheelchair on a first come, first served basis. The chair or scooter has to fit in a FAA-approved storage area and must be of the weight and size that will fit in the on-board location. You can also check your wheelchair at the ticket counter or the gate and use Delta’s wheelchair equipment for travel within the airport. All of Delta’s aircraft have an on-board wheelchair, and it can be used to move to and from the lavatory. Finally, here are Delta’s disability policies.

American Airlines

When making your reservation with American Airlines, let them know if you’ll need a wheelchair to get to your departure gate, and during your connection (if you have one). It’s also a good idea to remind the airport agent that you’ll need a wheelchair or other mobility assistance at your destination or connecting city.

Some airports have electric carts to assist customers in moving throughout the airport. These vehicles operate continuously, and are available for all customers. Upon request, pre-boarding assistance can be provided if you need it.

Flight attendants can help customers get from their seats to the aircraft lavatory and back during flight by using the on-board wheelchair. Every jet aircraft has a collapsible chair available for on-board use, and there are many seats available with moveable aisle armrests within the main cabin. American Airlines (and American Eagle jet aircraft) has a designated space in the cabin of each aircraft to accommodate one collapsible wheelchair. Non-collapsible wheelchairs or scooters are acceptable as checked luggage and can be checked in at either the ticket counter or the departure gate. Finally, here are American Airlines’ disability policies.

US Airways

When traveling with US Airways, if you have a mobility disability and need special seating, call 800-428-4322 (TTY 800-245-2966) at least 24 hours before your scheduled departure to ensure your needs are met. The airline can provide a seat in a row with a movable aisle armrest for passengers needing to transfer from a boarding wheelchair to their seat, or a bulkhead seat or other seat with more legroom for passengers with a fused or immobilized leg. The airline can also provide an on-board wheelchair but let them know 48 hours in advance if you need one.

US Airways offers pre-boarding for passengers with a disability who need extra time or assistance to board, stow accessibility equipment or be seated. They also offer boarding and deplaning assistance — if you need it, let a gate agent know. Also let the airline know if you need help stowing or retrieving carry-on items, and if you need a wheelchair at your destination or connection. The agent will make a note in your reservation and order your wheelchair.

US Airways and US Airways Express have designated priority space in the cabin of each aircraft to accommodate one collapsible wheelchair. Non-collapsible wheelchairs or scooters are acceptable as checked luggage, which you can check at the ticket counter or departure gate. Finally, here are US Airways’ disability policies.

Air Canada

Customers with disabilities or other special needs should let Air Canada know when making their reservation. The more advance notice you can give, the more the airline can do to ensure ease of travel. Some of their special needs services include:

  • Indicating any special needs or conditions with a notation on your boarding card
  • Assistance with registration at the check-in counter
  • Help moving to the boarding area, as well as boarding, getting into your seat, and deplaning
  • Help moving around the airport – wheelchair assistance is available at the airport for this
  • Stowing and retrieving your bags and mobility aids
  • Assistance unwrapping and cutting food, and opening beverages

If you’ll be traveling with an assistive device of any kind, let Air Canada know 48 hours in advance so they can ensure it meets the requirements for your specific aircraft. If you have any questions about getting your needs met, or to ensure that you will be comfortable on your flight, call the Air Canada reservations desk (888-247-2262) and ask for the medical desk with the details of your needs and reservation.

Air Canada stows most wheelchairs and mobility devices, either as checked baggage, or if there’s room, on board. There are also wheelchairs on board most Air Canada aircraft for helping customers to the lavatory, or when boarding and deplaning. Finally, here are Air Canada’s disability policies.


If you’re flying with Southwest and you need a wheelchair at the airport, or need other special assistance, it’s best to inform the airline in advance, or as soon as you arrive at the airport so your requests can be fulfilled as quickly as possible.

Priority pre-boarding is available for those who have a specific seating need to accommodate their disability, or who need assistance in boarding the aircraft or stowing an assistive device. Should you need to pre-board you can request a pre-boarding document from the customer service agent at the departure gate. This document lets the boarding agent know that you need to pre-board.

A small wheelchair that can fit down the aircraft aisle is available at every gate and can be used if you need help getting into your seat. Each gate is also equipped with a Passenger Transfer Kit (PTK), which contains a slide board and a transfer sling. The sling is used to lift a customer requiring this type of assistance safely from his/her wheelchair into the small wheelchair and then into the aircraft seat. To make this transfer easier, at least the first two rows on most Southwest aircraft are equipped with movable aisle armrests.

Southwest checks most wheelchairs and mobility devices as long as they can be stowed safely, and there is space for one collapsible wheelchair, available on a first come, first served basis, aboard the aircraft. Finally, Southwest’s disability policies.


Contact the airline (1-800-JETBLUE) to add any special service you might need to an existing reservation. The more JetBlue knows about the type of assistance you need and the earlier you make your request, the more they can do to help make your flight and time at the airport as comfortable as possible. For example, if you’re not able to ascend or descend stairs, you should request special assistance with boarding and deplaning when you make your reservation so airport crew members can have the necessary equipment ready for you.

Airport wheelchair service is available at all airport locations, and JetBlue has specially-designed wheelchairs for any immobile customers to use in reaching their seats when boarding and deplaning.

Note that JetBlue doesn’t offer curbside service at most of their airport locations so if you need help leaving the airport, make a request with a JetBlue crew member inside the terminal so they can provide the curbside assistance needed. Finally, here are JetBlue’s disability policies.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines staff does everything they can to assist those traveling with a disability, but to ensure you have everything you need, try and make reservations as early as possible. Any special services you might need can be requested online or over the phone. Otherwise, let the airline know of any special requirements at check-in, in the boarding area, and on the aircraft, and arrive at the airport at least two hours before departure to allow enough time to board comfortably.

Alaska Airlines transports all types of personal wheelchairs and mobility devices, but it’s also important to note that travelers transporting electric/battery-powered wheelchairs, carts or scooters need to be checked in and available to board at least 45 minutes before the posted departure for all flights, and travelers transporting any other type of non-electric/battery-powered wheelchair, cart or scooter should be checked in and available to board at least 30 minutes before the posted departure for all flights.

Wheelchairs and wheelchair escorts are available at every airport, and some airports have electric carts available for customer use. Should you need to use them, or if you need help getting to your gate, boarding, deplaning or connecting, let a customer service agent know so they can arrange for a wheelchair to be available at each location. For travelers who need assistance getting onto the aircraft, Alaska Airlines offers lifts or ramps for anyone who is unable to ascend or descend stairs, and on-board wheelchairs that can be used to help passengers in reaching and transferring to their seats when boarding and deplaning.

There is space on most flights to stow one folding, collapsible, or breakdown wheelchair and that space is provided on a first come, first served basis. Finally, here are Alaska Airlines’ disability policies.

Hawaiian Airlines

Let the airline know in advance about any assistance you’ll need at the airport, connecting, while on board, or if you’ll need extra time to board your flight. Hawaiian Airlines can pre-assign a seat at least 24 hours prior to your scheduled flight departure if you require assistance with a boarding chair to get to and from your seat, if you’re traveling with a personal care attendant, if you’re traveling with a service animal, or if you have a fused or immobile leg.

There is no weight limit for any assistive devices that you travel with and they will be accepted as either cabin baggage or checked baggage. If there is no space to stow your assistive device on-board, it will be tagged for special handling and placed in the cargo hold as long as you don’t need the assistive device during the flight.

Wheelchairs are available at all airport locations to transport you between the ticket counter and gate, and you can ask a skycap or porter if you need one, or if you need help with your own wheelchair, or other special assistance. If necessary, Hawaiian Airlines has a special boarding chair to assist you in getting to your seat. If you need extra time exiting the aircraft, a wheelchair at your destination or transfer point, or assistance in deplaning the aircraft or through the terminal, the airline requests that you notify a flight attendant at least 45 minutes before landing so they have time to make the necessary arrangements. Finally, here are Hawaiian Airlines’ disability policies.


Guests traveling with WestJet should let the airline know if they require the use of a wheelchair. You can do this either online while booking or by calling WestJet (1-888-WESTJET). Note that WestJet Encore flights are ground loaded so it’s important to contact the airline if you need extra help getting to or from the aircraft and while on board.

For the most part wheelchairs are carried in the cargo compartment of the aircraft, but there are a few aircraft, operating on select flights, which are equipped with a shelf that can stow one medically-required, standard-folding wheelchair. If the space is available, you can request it at the check-in counter on a first-come, first-served basis. Checking a medically required wheelchair or mobility device doesn’t count toward the checked baggage allowance. Finally, here are WestJet’s disability policies.


Customers traveling with Porter who have a disability, and who need special assistance should contact the call center at 1-888-619-8622 for further information about what Porter can do to assist.

Wheelchairs are available for passengers who need them to get around the airport, and each Porter aircraft is equipped with an on-board wheelchair. A checked wheelchair doesn’t count toward your stowed baggage allowance. Finally, here are Porter’s disability policies.


Depending on what kind of special assistance you need, you can request it when making a reservation online or through Spirit Airlines reservations to ensure you have everything you need for a comfortable journey.

Depending on the size of the item, customers can take wheelchairs, walkers, canes, crutches, or assistive devices, in addition to one carry-on item on board. You can also check your wheelchair at the ticket counter or the gate and use Spirit’s wheelchair equipment. Spirit Airlines personnel can assist customers with disabilities in boarding, deplaning and connecting with their flights, and provide assistance in getting customers to and from gates. In addition, all of Spirit’s aircraft have an on-board wheelchair.

Once you reach your destination airport, Spirit can help with deplaning and have your personal wheelchair ready for you at the gate or at the baggage claim. They will also provide transfer service on and off the aircraft using boarding or aisle chairs that are designed for aircraft aisles. If you’re making a connection, assistance can be provided between flights using the airline’s wheelchair service. Finally, here are Spirit Airlines’ policies on disabilities.


If you are traveling with Allegiant and you have a disability or special need, be sure to mention it when booking a reservation online or over the phone. You can also contact the reservation center (702) 505-8888 and request the assistance you may need to be added to your reservation.

Battery-powered mobility devices (wheelchairs, scooters, etc.) will be checked at no additional charge at the ticket counter or gate and transported if the cargo compartment is large enough. Other assistive devices, such as walkers, canes, crutches, etc., that can be stowed safely are fine to bring on board and won’t count toward your carry-on baggage limit. If an assistive device can’t be stored safely in the cabin, it will get tagged and transported in the cargo compartment. Finally, here are Allegiant’s policies for special needs passengers.


If you need help moving through the airport when traveling with Frontier you can request a wheelchair or electronic cart ride through the concourse (where available) to get from one departure gate to another, or to help you get to baggage claim.

If you’re traveling with a wheelchair or mobility device it can be checked and doesn’t count toward your baggage allowance. There is one space on board Airbus aircraft to stow a wheelchair, which is available on a first come, first served basis. You can request it when you make your reservation.

It’s also a good idea to notify a customer service representative at the ticket counter at the time of check-in and upon arrival at the gate area if you’re going to be stowing your wheelchair on-board. The wheelchair can’t exceed a height of 40 inches, a length of 50 inches, a width of 13 inches, or weigh more than 70 pounds.

Frontier’s customer service representatives will also make sure that passengers with a disability have the opportunity to board before the general boarding begins, and if you’re stowing your wheelchair, will make sure it gets stowed properly. When you reach your destination, a customer service representative or flight attendant will bring your wheelchair to the front of the aircraft after all passengers have deplaned and assist you with disembarking. Finally, here’s additional information about special needs passengers.


When booking a ticket on Alitalia, passengers should discuss their requests for special assistance. Reservations representatives are able to answer questions and discuss special needs, but Alitalia also maintains a dedicated number for travelers with special needs: 1-800-223-5730.

If you are traveling with a wheelchair or other mobility aids or assistive devices, let the booking agent know at the time of reservation. Alitalia will transport these items free of charge. Passengers who need special assistance should give the airline 48 hours notice and check in one hour before the check-in time for the general public.

Alitalia provides a variety of services, including:

  • A Braille Safety Briefing Card available for blind and vision impaired passengers on medium-haul Airbus aircraft. The airline permits guide and service dogs to accompany passengers with disabilities at no charge.
  • Oxygen therapy for passengers with heart, lung or respiratory conditions to prevent the effects of cabin pressure when the airplane is flying at high altitudes.Transportation of syringes and medicines on-board, for personal use, in sufficient quantity for the entire trip (flights to and from the destination and the duration of the stay).

In some cases, Alitalia may require passengers to complete a Medical Information Form, dated within 10 days of the passenger’s initial departing flight, and/or travel with an assistant. According to Alitalia’s Special Assistance webpage, the following passengers must travel with an assistant:

  • A passenger traveling in a stretcher. The safety assistant for such a person must be capable of attending to the passenger’s in-flight medical needs
  • A passenger who, because of a mental disability, is unable to comprehend or respond appropriately to safety instructions from Alitalia personnel
  • A passenger with a mobility impairment so severe that the person is unable to physically assist in his or her own evacuation of the aircraft
  • A passenger who has both severe hearing and severe vision impairments, if the passenger cannot establish some means of communication with Alitalia personnel that is adequate both to permit transmission of the flight safety briefing required by governmental authorities and to enable the passenger to assist in his or her own evacuation of the aircraft in the event of an emergency.

Those who give 48 hours advance notice and check in one hour before the check-in time for general public may receive the following services and accommodations:

  • Carriage of an incubator.
  • Hook-up for a respirator, ventilator, continuous positive airway pressure machine or portable oxygen concentrator to the aircraft electrical power supply. Passengers should bring an adequate number of batteries on board the aircraft to power their electronic respiratory assistive medical devices (including portable oxygen concentrators) to power the device for 150 percent of the expected maximum flight duration. More information about batteries and what to pack is available here.
  • Accommodation for a passenger who must travel in a stretcher.
  • Transportation for an electric wheelchair on an aircraft with fewer than 60 seats.
  • Provision of hazardous materials packaging for batteries or other assistive devices that are required to have such packaging;
  • Accommodation for a group of 10 or more qualified individuals with a disability, who make reservations and travel as a group;
  • Provision of an on-board wheelchair on an aircraft with more than 60 seats that does not have an accessible lavatory;
  • Transportation of an emotional support or psychiatric service animal in the cabin.
  • Transportation of a service animal on a flight segment scheduled to take 8 hours or more
  • Accommodation of a passenger who has both severe vision and hearing impairments.

Finally, here are Alitalia’s policies for special needs passengers.


ANA maintains the ANA Disability Desk, which assists patients who require special attention due to medical reasons or physical limitations. The ANA Disability Desk is staffed 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Call 0120-029-377 (desk), 0570-029-377 (mobile phone), 03-6741-8900 (international calls). Some passengers may be required to complete a Medical Information Form.

The following passengers must contact the ANA Disability Desk in advance: passengers requiring an Oxygen Cylinder and/or Portable Oxygen Concentrator on board; passengers requiring other medical devices on board; and passengers who need a stretcher, incubator or special medical treatment on board; and group tour customers traveling in groups of 10 or more who require special assistance.

ANA staff and cabin crew members can assist in identifying in-flight meal items and opening packages, but they cannot assist with feeding or the personal hygiene needs of passengers. Passengers who need this type of assistance or who are in a stretcher or infant incubator or whose doctor recommends an escort, must travel with an assistant. Staff and cabin crew can assist customers with walking disabilities when ascending or descending stairs and moving inside the cabin.

Stretcher rental and oxygen cylinder rentals are available through the airline via advance reservation and are subject to availability. At some airports, the following service equipment is available: ANA Skyassist Counter, writing pad/communication board, wheelchairs including large and reclining wheelchairs, electric cart, boarding ramp, assisted stretcher, passenger boarding lift, wheelchair stair lift and scalamobil. Onboard, the following service equipment may be available (availability is based on aircraft and flight): seats with movable arm rests, cabin wheelchair, wheelchair accessible bathroom, safety instructions in Braille, cabin stretcher, ANA rental oxygen cylinder, assist seats, support belts, resuscitation kit, medical kit, doctor’s emergency kit, automated extern defibrillator, and writing pads are available. Finally, here are ANA’s policies for special needs passengers.

Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific provides a variety of services for passengers with disabilities. Cabin crew can provide: assistance in moving to and from seats; help in preparation for eating; and assistance in the use of inflight wheelchair to and from the lavatory door. The staff cannot help with personal care needs like eating and drinking, administering medications or assistance inside the lavatory.

Passengers with disabilities are offered priority seating. Service devices available onboard all aircraft include: accessible lavatories with a single panel door and additional grab bar and in-flight wheelchairs. Oxygen in cylinders for therapeutic or medical purposes may also be available free of charge. A stretcher can also be provided for a fee upon request.

Hearing and visually impaired travelers are offered: meet and assist service to and from the aircraft; individual safety briefings; subtitles on in-flight safety videos; and priority boarding. Cabin crew can read the menu and explain where all the food is placed on the tray to visually impaired travelers.

Some flyers might be required to complete a Passenger Medical Clearance Form.

Cathay Pacific offers a Frequent Traveller’s Medical Card to passengers who travel regularly and require special assistance or medical clearance for a stable medical condition or disability. The card is issued to passengers with stabile medical conditions. Contact your local reservation office for more information about the Frequent Traveller’s Medical Card and requesting special assistance. Finally, here are Cathay Pacific’s policies for special needs passengers.

Etihad Airways

Eithad Airways offers extensive guidelines and advice for travelers with medical and special needs. Passengers requiring special needs should request them at least 72 hours prior to flight departure.

Airline staff and cabin crew do their best to safely carry passengers’ mobility aids – it’s smallest aircraft door is 81 cm. Canes, crutches and walkers are allowed in-cabin and cabin crew can assist with stowing and retrieving of these assistive devices.

All aircraft have wheelchairs onboard to assist guests moving to and from the lavatory (many aircraft have disabled access lavatories); emergency medical equipment;

Passengers should review Etihad Airways’ Fitness to Fly Guidelines prior to booking their trips. Some guests may be required to complete Medical Information for Fitness to Travel or Special Assistance forms. The following guests need Medical Clearance, according to Etihad Airways’ website:

  • suffers from any condition which is believed to be actively contagious and communicable
  • is likely to be a hazard or a cause of discomfort to other guests, because of his/her physical or behavioural condition
  • is considered to be a potential hazard to the safety or punctuality of the flight, including the possibility of diversion
  • is incapable of caring for himself and requires special assistance
  • has a medical condition which may be adversely affected by the flight environment
  • has recently had a major medical incident
  • suffers from an unstable physical or psychological condition
  • requires a stretcher
  • requires in-flight oxygen or is using his/her own portable oxygen concentrator (POC) or ventilator
  • requires the use of battery-powered* medical equipment in-flight or needs to undertake any medical procedure during the flight (e.g. requires injections to be administered).

Finally, here are Etihad’s policies for special needs passengers.

Japan Airlines

JAL classifies passengers with disabilities, illness or injuries as Priority Guests, who are given precedence. It opened its Priority Guest Center in 1994. The airline has created products and services using a universal design to help all customers and create a barrier free environment. Air travelers with disabilities (U.S. only) can call 1-800-778-4838 (TTY1-800-455-9880). JAL Priority Guest Reservations can be made by calling 0120-747-707 or 03-5460-3783 (9 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily). Passengers outside Japan can contact the nearest JAL reservations or sales office.

Guests requiring additional assistance should check-in at the counter and not at self-service kiosks. There are special check-in counters for Priority Guests at Haneda and Narita (International) airports in Japan.

JAL provides a variety of services at the airport and in-flight. Special devices at the airport to assist with boarding include: communication board, airport wheelchairs, mechanical lift, passenger step car with wheelchair lift, wheelchair board, aircraft boarding chair and threshold wheelchair ramp.

Cabin crew can provide a personal safety briefing; safety instructions in Braille; assistance in preparing to eat a meal, such as cutting up food, opening packages and identifying food; and help in writing an embarkation form. Other items and equipment available include: rental child seat, communication board, onboard wheelchairs, moveable aisle armrest seats, accessible lavatory, belt extensions, body support belt and small oxygen bottle (fee). Aircraft are also stocked with airsickness and pain medication, doctor’s kit, resuscitation equipment and automated external defibrillator

Finally, here are Japan Airlines’ policies for special needs passengers.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines

KLM Cares provides assistance to guests traveling on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. Passengers requesting special assistance should do so at least 48 hours prior to departure. To request special assistance, passengers can e-mail or call 0800 5562-2737 (in the Netherlands) or 1-844-797-7723 (outside the Netherlands), 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., daily.

Passengers needing special assistance should check-in at least half an hour before the recommended check-in time (those traveling with electronically powered wheelchairs should check in one hour earlier). For those departing from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, check in at desk 16. Some travelers with special needs (or their travel agents) may need to complete Medical Information Form A and have their physicians complete Medical Information Form B.

KLM will transport wheelchairs, scooters and walkers free of charge. Wheelchairs and scooters must be check-in as checked luggage. KLM provides the following devices aboard its aircraft, according to the KLM Cares webpage:

  • Foldable onboard wheelchair: available on all KLM’s Boeing 777, Boeing 747, Boeing 737 and A330 aircraft. As of July 2015, the Embraer 190 and Fokker 70 will be equipped with one as well.
  • Toilet facilities: wheelchair accessible toilets are available on all KLM’s Boeing 777, Boeing 787 and Airbus A330 aircraft. The Boeing 737, Boeing 747, Embraer 190 and Fokker 70 aircraft have a foldaway curtain to enlarge the lavatory space. Staff will help find your way to and from the toilet, but they cannot assist you in the toilet area.
  • Toilet handles: the toilets onboard of all KLM aircraft are equipped with toilet handles.
  • Moveable armrests: All aircrafts have a number of aisle and middle seats that have moveable armrests, so passengers can transfer more easily into their seats. The number and locations of movable aisle armrest seats may vary by aircraft type.

The following travelers should contact KLM Cares to request the following special assistance, according to the KLM Cares webpage:

  • Arrange assistance at the airport during boarding, disembarking and/or transferring.
  • Bring your own (electric) wheelchair (scooter), walker or crutches or use a cabin wheelchair.
  • Bring special medical equipment.
  • Bring your service animal into the cabin.
  • Use an extended leg rest for a leg that needs to stay in a horizontal position (in a cast). On KLM flights within Europe, 2 extra seats need to be booked in Economy Class. On intercontinental KLM flights, you need to travel in Business Class.

The videos here and here give more information about the special assistance offered to passengers departing and arriving or transferring at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. The KLM Cares brochure Carefree Travel provides additional air travel information for passengers with reduced mobility. Finally, here are KLM’s policies for special needs passengers.


Quantas provides a range of services for guests needing special assistance. Some customers may need to seek medical clearance to fly on Quantas, including passengers whose:

  • Disability is new (i.e. has occurred within six weeks of travel) or is unstable (ie. has changed within six weeks of travel),
  • Condition may deteriorate during the flight
  • Condition may deteriorate due to a decrease in oxygen levels in the aircraft cabin environment or a decrease in cabin pressure.
  • Medical condition that meets the criteria listed in detail in the Travel Clearance Form.
  • Doctor or the passenger is unsure about the passenger fitness to travel.
  • Needs include supplemental therapeutic oxygen.
  • Needs include the requirement of medical equipment in flight (for example, a stretcher, humidicrib, ventilators, defibrillators and oxygen concentrators)

The Travel Clearance Form should be completed at least 72 hours prior to departure.

For passengers transferring during travel within Australia, Quantas has prepared a Passenger Assistance Brochure that outlines the transfer process. Contact Quantas to request special services by calling 13 13 13 in Australia and local Quantas offices outside Australia or booking via a travel agent. To rent a stretcher or oxygen or to discuss special needs requests, contact Qantas Special Handling at +61 2 8222 2651 (available 24/7) or via email. For passengers who have difficulty typing, moving a mouse or reading, they can download the eSSENTIAL Accessibility. Quantas has created a helpful Customer Checklist for People Traveling with Mobility Aids, which helps keep information about special needs and mobility aids in one place. Finally, the Disabilities Facilitation Plan for Quantas Airways Limited provides in-depth information about special assistance.

Some narrow-bodied aircraft in Quantas’ fleet (B737, B717, F100 and Dash 8 aircraft) have limitations:

  • Wheelchair accessible toilets are not available on those aircraft.
  • Storage of passenger wheelchairs in the cabin is not possible.
  • On-board aisle wheelchairs are not available (with the exception of the 737-800).
  • Stowage of some customer mobility aids may not be possible.
  • There is generally a limit of one electric wheelchair per flight.

Mobility aids

  • Canes and crutches can be carried in the aircraft cabin.
  • Foldable walkers can be carried in the aircraft cabin.
  • On Airbus 380 U.S. flights, one collapsible wheelchair can be stowed in a dedicated storage spot in the cabin.
  • Non-collapsible walkers, electric wheelchairs and scooters, manual wheelchairs and and additional manual wheelchairs on Airbus 380 U.S. flights must be checked.
  • Two pieces of mobility equipment are carried free of charge as checked baggage. This does not count toward the checked baggage allotment for each passenger. For U.S. flights, there is no limit to the number of pieces of mobility equipment.

Special services offered include:

  • Meet and Assist: assist guests from check-in to the departure gate by airport wheelchair or people mover and from arrival gate to baggage claim; meet guests at the departure gate to collect their mobility aids (where possible); and meet you at the arrival gate to deliver your mobility aid (where possible),
  • Priority boarding: Qantas staff provide assistance to passengers with mobility limitations, where required, including transferring passengers to and from their mobility aids and the aircraft seat.
  • Stretcher and oxygen cylinder rental (extra charges apply).

In-flight assistance includes:

  • Torso harnesses/restraints are available on many aircraft. Suitable for adults and children, the torso harnesses/restraints are made from seat belt webbing and lambs wool and are installed using the existing aircraft seat belt.
  • As part of Qantas special meal requests, pre-cut meals may be requested at the time of booking and must be requested no later than 24 hours prior to departure for visually-impaired passengers.
  • Text messaging capability is available in-flight on some aircraft types to assist deaf or hearing impaired customers with some in-flight announcements. When this is unavailable, a flight attendant will provide individual updates during the flight when announcements are made
  • The standard inflight headsets are compatible with the t-switch found on most hearing aids.
  • Captioning on some of the inflight entertainment programs and movies. There are three subtitled or captioned English language, English movies on all Qantas services that have Audio Visual On Demand (AVOD) in-flight entertainment systems. This is in addition to a number of foreign language films with English subtitles available on aircraft that are equipped with AVOD.
  • Accessible toilets: All Qantas wide bodied aircraft (A380, B744 and A330) have at least one fully wheelchair accessible toilet. Qantas’ narrow-bodied aircraft (such as B737, B717, F100 and Dash 8 aircraft) do not have accessible toilets because of the size restrictions on the aircraft. Where passengers are not traveling with an assistant or carer, Cabin Crew can assist to and from the door of the aircraft toilet, but for health reasons, cannot assist within the toilet.
  • On-board wheelchairs are available on Qantas’ wide-bodied aircraft (such as A380, B744 aircraft) and allow passengers to be escorted to and from the aircraft toilets. On-board wheelchairs are available on Qantas aircraft (with the exception of the B717, F100 and Dash 8 aircraft). The 737-800 has an on-board wheelchair, but no wheelchair accessible toilet.

Finally, here are Quantas’ policies for special needs passengers.

Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines provides a variety of services to passengers needing special assistance. Contact the airline at least 48 hours in advance of travel to ensure a smooth trip.

Each Singapore Airlines aircraft is equipped with:

  • Onboard wheelchair that can be used to shuttle between the seat and the lavatory.
  • Wheelchair-friendly lavatories.
  • Seats with movable armrests to facilitate the transfer between the onboard wheelchair and the seat.

Singapore Airlines offers the following services to passengers needing special assistance:

  • Pre-boarding
  • Assistance with the onboard wheelchair
  • Assistance moving from the onboard wheelchair to the lavatory
  • Assistance to and from gates and flight connections
  • For the visually-impaired, the cabin crew will conduct a special safety briefing before take-off to highlight the procedures to be followed in the event of an evacuation and to orientate the passenger to the surroundings.
  • For the visually-impaired, the airline can provide assistance in preparation for meals consumption, such as opening of packages and identifying food.
  • The onboard safety video has sign language for the hearing-impaired.
  • Stretcher services in Economy Class on selected aircraft; service charges apply. Passengers traveling on a stretcher must be accompanied by a qualified person and have a medical certificate from a physician to certify fitness to travel.
  • Supplementary oxygen kit. Guests must request this service at least five working days in advance. Passengers needing oxygen must have a medical certificate from a physician to certify fitness to travel. An extra seat is required to strap the oxygen bottle next to the passenger. However, more than one seat may be required depending on the oxygen flow rate/mode and the flight time, which in turn determines the number of bottles to be uplifted. Charges apply for each extra seat used to carry the supplementary oxygen kit.

Singapore Airlines is unable to offer:

  • Assistance with feeding of meals
  • Assistance within the restroom
  • Medical services

Some passengers may be required to obtain medical clearance from a Singapore Airlines appointed doctor and complete the Singapore Airlines’ Medical Information Form when fitness to travel is in doubt:

  • Recent illness
  • Hospitalization
  • Injury
  • Surgery
  • Instability
  • Cases that require special attention or use of special medical equipment onboard (for example, use of a stretcher, supplementary oxygen tank, or similar type of medical equipment).
  • Finally, here are Singapore Airlines’ policies for special needs passengers.

Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines offers several types of assistance to travelers, including ambulance service, oxygen and stretchers. For more details and to arrange special services, call 90-212-444-0-849.

Ambulance services can be arranged at the boarding point (departure airport) from the terminal gate to the aircraft and at the destination point (arrival airport) from the aircraft to the terminal gate. The airline can provide oxygen to passengers in stretchers or seated.

Travelers can bring certain kinds of medical equipment on the plane, including wheelchairs, which are checked for free. Passengers needing to use portable oxygen concentrators, breathing machines like respirators and ventilators, and sleep apnea devices can carry them on the aircraft and used them in-flight.

Turkish Airlines also has a few restrictions. Babies cannot be carried in incubators on Turkish Airlines flights. Passengers in stretchers must be accompanied by a paying adult passenger, who can provide medical assistance in-flight if needed. Passengers who are both hearing and visually impaired must travel with an attendant. Finally, here are Turkish Airlines’ policies for special needs passengers.

Virgin Atlantic

Guests flying on Virgin Atlantic should alert the airline at least 48 hours ahead of their flights if they need special assistance. Call the Special Assistance team for requests and to make arrangements: 0344 481 4455; Mon – Fri 09:00 – 18:00; 1 888-747-7474; traveling from the U.S. outside the U.K., call 44 (0) 344-209-7777 or contact one of the airline’s worldwide numbers.

Virgin Atlantic provides a variety of services and accommodations for those who need special assistance; however, there are a few restrictions. No Virgin Atlantic aircraft carries a stretcher, so stretcher service is not available. Some Virgin Atlantic flights have an upper deck on the Boeing 747-400 aircraft; however, those who have difficulty walking up and down stairs quickly cannot be seated in the upper deck.

Some passengers with certain medical conditions may be required to complete a medical form and get clearance from their physicians to fly.

Virgin Atlantic can help make arrangements for guests who need help getting around European airports. Due to EU regulations, the assistance comes from the airports and not the airlines; however, Virgin Atlantic staff can help secure arrangements.

From check-in to landing, Virgin Atlantic provides a variety of assistance options, including:

  • Support seating that can offer spinal and posture support. The airline can provide adults the Burnett Body Support, a sheepskin-covered beanbag with full back support, a headrest and two side arms. A member of the cabin crew uses a foot pump to remove the air from inside the bag, allowing it to mold itself around the passenger, and a travel chair for children, which has a five-point harness to provides upper-body support. The chair is generally suitable for children aged 3 – 11, depending on their size.
  • Accessible toilets. The level of accessibility of onboard toilets depends on the plane: Airbus planes operating long haul routes are equipped with one fully wheelchair-accessible toilet; Boeing 747-400 aircraft have partially accessible toilets. The cabin crew can help passengers to and from the toilet door, using an onboard wheelchair that is on every aircraft except our Little Red service. However the crew cannot assist inside the toilet itself, for hygiene reasons.
  • Moveable armrest seats. Most of Virgin Atlantic’s aircraft have moveable armrests at every seat in the Economy cabin that is not at bulkhead or exit. On some of the 747-400 fleet, the moveable armrests are only at rows 26C-27C/29C-37C/30H-37H and 31DG-37DG.
  • Airport escort and pre-boarding.
  • On international flights, cabin crew with sign language skills (BSL). This service can take up to six weeks to organize.
  • On international flights, on-board entertainment with captioned movies. The aircraft has neck loops which work in conjunction with the ‘T’ switch on a hearing aid, so hearing impaired guests can enjoy the audio entertainment onboard.
  • Safety information card with large print and Braille.
  • Oxygen can be supplied on all routes. In the Economy and Premium Economy cabins, passengers can have oxygen throughout the flight and for take off and landing on long haul routes. In Upper Class, guests can only have oxygen during the flight – not for take off and landing, as the oxygen cylinder cannot be safely stowed.
  • Airport wheelchairs can be arranged for use in the airport.
  • Emergency medical equipment. All Virgin Atlantic aircraft are equipped with emergency medical kits, Automated External Defibrillators, routine first aid equipment; and Tempus, a diagnostic device that allows trained senior crew members to measure the vital signs like blood pressure and pulse rate of an unwell passenger, which can then be relayed to ground-based specialists.

Passengers can bring canes, crutches, and walkers free of charge. Collapsible manual wheelchairs may also be carried within the cabin on any aircraft that has dedicated storage space. Guests who are visually impaired may bring assistance dogs for flight destined for the following cities:

  • JFK (New York)
  • Newark (New Jersey)
  • Washington DC
  • Boston
  • Miami
  • Orlando
  • Los Angeles
  • Chicago
  • San Francisco
  • Las Vegas
  • Antigua
  • Barbados
  • Dubai
  • Hong Kong
  • Sydney
  • Tobago
  • Tokyo

Finally, here are Virgin Atlantic’s policies for special needs passengers.

(Main image: daquellamanera used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)

Must-know airline info: Tips for travelers with disabilities was last modified: July 31st, 2015 by Cheapflights Media
Article by Cheapflights Media (23 posts)

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