Accessible Air Travel: Tips for Booking Your Flight

Editor’s Note: It’s officially vacation season! But before you can enjoy beaches and flip flops, you probably have to endure a trip to the airport. But never fear! All week long, our resident accessible travel expert Mark Chilutti will be sharing his tips to make your flying foray easy and – dare we say? – even pleasant. Today’s post focuses on first things first: booking your flight.

Taking a trip on an airplane when you have a disability is easier than you might think, and through the next few posts, I will walk you through the process. Today, we’re going to talk about the very first step: booking your flight. While this may seem pretty self-explanatory, when you are living with a disability there are a few things you need to consider before you click “buy.” Here area few of  my tips.

  • Allow at least 90 minutes between connecting flights. If the trip you are taking requires a connection to another plane, remember that if you are in a wheelchair, you are the first one on the plane and the last one off the plane. I estimate that it takes anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes from the time the plane lands until I am off the plane and back in my wheelchair. Since it will then take a few minutes to get to the connecting gate, and I need to board first, I strongly suggest allowing at least 90 minutes between connections. And because nothing can ruin a trip quite like missing a flight, be sure to consider this when booking.
  • Let the airline know you need assistance before you ever get to the airport. After finding the itinerary I am interested in, I make sure I list that I need assistance getting on and off of the plane. After I book the flight, I usually follow up with a phone call to airline as well to ensure they have documented I will need assistance boarding.
  • Make your seating requests explicit. In my follow-up call to the airline post-booking, I ask them to assist me with seating so I can be seated as close to the front as possible in an aisle seat. Often the airline will offer the first row in coach (also known as the “bulkhead row”), but I try to avoid it whenever possible. The armrests in those seats do not lift up, and it would require two people to lift me in to my seat. I prefer to sit in the 2nd or 3rd row because the armrests on those chairs will lift up, making it very easy for me to transfer over to the seat. Be sure to be your own advocate and request the best seat for you.

These tips should help you get a ticket purchased and make it easy for you when it is time to fly. Next up? Where do I park at the airport? Stay tuned as the trip continues!

We want to hear from you! Do you have any tips for booking flights when you have a disability?

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