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Travel the Right Way with Scooters and Motorized Wheelchairs on Airlines - Mobility Plus Direct

Travel the Right Way with Scooters and Motorized Wheelchairs on Airlines

Traveler with a mobility scooter

When traveling, we often need to manage and prepare, but for people with movement challenges, there are some additional areas to consider, and this article shares some of our travel tips to ensure a better and more enriched travel experience.

Pre-flight preparation:

Traveler's rights document
  • Similar to every travel experience,  preparation is key, whether it is down to the Airline you like, the destination culture, or facilities in the hotel, and traveling with mobility aids is no exception. 
  • Early notification by contacting your airline of choice to discuss your specific needs and requirements is key. It also gives you a good opportunity to inquire around their policies, as some airlines have restrictions on the size and weight of power wheelchairs they can accommodate. 
  • Another key aspect to note is to make sure your wheelchair complies with the airline's guidelines. Most can accommodate mid-sized power wheelchairs and some smaller full-sized models (albeit not always explicitly mentioned). As long as your travel scooter, powerchair or mobility device adheres to your selected airline’s size, weight, and safety restrictions and the battery is FAA-compliant, they must accept and transport your device free of charge.
  • It is good to keep a copy of the specifications, thus ensure your mobility aid supplier provides this to you. An example is available on our products pages and provided with all purchases through Mobilityplusdirect. As an example, please see FreeRider Luggie Superplus 4
    • It is useful and important to know you have rights. Most countries and jurisdictions have laws in place e.g. in America, your right to fly with a mobility device is protected by the “Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights” (Click Here), and within the Bill of Rights, it is also stated that airlines are responsible for any loss and damage that occurs while the device is in their possession. If you plan to travel internationally, research the regulations and requirements of the destination country regarding mobility devices. Different countries may have specific rules, so it's essential to be well-informed.
    • Travel Insurance that covers your power wheelchair and other mobility equipment in case of loss or damage during the trip is advisable to give peace of mind.
    Airport security check

    Pre-days to flight:

    • Ensure your Power Chair, electric wheelchair, scooter etc., are sufficiently charged. It sounds simple, but you would be surprised how many people overlook this, similar to a mobile phone - I have forgotten how many times my children complain during a flight because their battery has died!
    • If your power chair has removable batteries, consider fully charging them before your flight to ensure they last throughout your journey. Some airports also provide charging stations for mobility devices (good to add this to your inquiry list as part of the Pre-flight preparation)
    • Pack your medical, insurance and Mobile Scooter documentation, along with your travel documents in an easy to access, but secure  bag, pocket, or place that you can easily obtain during your travel.

    Arrival at the airport:

    • Travelling can be stressful, so our best advice is to give yourself time and build the journey into your holiday i.e. luxurious and relaxing travel through-out, so we cannot stress enough to give yourself time. If you get to the airport early, you can relax and have a nice drink or cake, visit the shops or read a book, so aim to arrive at the airport at least one hour before the regular check-in time. Especially if it is your first time at the airport, it gives you time to find your allocated check-in point and inform an agent that you will be traveling with a power wheelchair.
    • Usually you must choose whether you wish to gate-check or baggage-check your power vehicle. We strongly suggest gate-checking to ensure you can stay in your power wheelchair or scooter until boarding. Also, it greatly reduces the risk of loss during transit and should ease stress.
    • Lithium batteries are always a key topic, so we recommend mentioning if your device contains lithium batteries and present the staff with the battery specification sheet to prove it is FAA-compliant e.g. the mobilityplusdirect Shoprider Echo 3 wheel scooter and the FreeRider Luggie Elite Folding Mobility Scooter are both compliant and would be provided with the respective battery details for easy fill out of any paperwork required for your departure. 
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    Another reason we recommend earlier arrival is to ensure sufficient time for security. In our experience, the details of your mobility aid device are not always passed onto the respective security gate employees, so it is best to expect a few more questions and checks, which is fine, as you arrived early and are still super relaxed.
    • If you need to remain in your chair, ensure that any removable items, including shoes, purses, outerwear, etc., are ready to be put through the X-ray machine.
    • The security employee should guide you to a different area to complete a full-body pat down and thorough inspection of your device. An agent will examine and swab your power wheelchair to check for any explosives. Once you are cleared, be sure to collect any belongings and proceed to your gate.

     Note: some airports may approach this differently, but all should be polite and accommodating. Technology also advances daily, so this may also change over time and feel free to request to be accompanied if you feel uncomfortable going alone.

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    • Airlines are required to provide accessible seating options for passengers with disabilities. Requesting an aisle seat or a seat with extra legroom can make your journey more comfortable (it is recommended to discuss this as well when you book, or at the gate, but if you haven’t, it shouldn't be too late and many airlines will accommodate you).
    • We would recommend informing the employees at the Boarding Gate regarding your requirements. In our experience, most employees will be helpful in ensuring a smooth transition onto the plane for you and your powered mobility aid, including any transfer to a transport chair if necessary. As per earlier advice, knowing the weight of your device, to enable the correct lifting into the cabin is advisable and should be available in the specifications upon purchase.
    • To gate-check your electric wheelchair or other device, ride it to the location specified by the gate employees and, typically where strollers are checked. Be sure to remove any belongings and lithium batteries, and stow them in your carry-on. 
    • From there, you can board the plane whether by foot or in an airline-supplied transport chair, and find your seat for the flight!
    • If your Scooter is folding, like the FreeRider Luggie Super Plus3 Folding Scooter then this may also enable easier accessibility for the plane, thus if it is foldable, we would suggest speaking with the gate staff and remaining with your transportation device to ensure it is folded correctly.

    This would be a good point to reference FAA rules on wheelchairs and mobility devices regarding batteries, including where to locate additional information and guidelines. It is helpful to understand the type of battery you have.  FAA rules advise that if your power wheelchair operates with an SLA (Sealed Lead Acid) battery i.e. cannot be removed, the battery does not have to be removed from the chair and can be stowed as-is. It is also recommended that any removal batteries or devices are are stored in the aircraft cabin (to be kept safe).

    • If your Power Chair, Travel Scooter or other mobile device uses a Lithium-ion battery its capacity needs to be less than 300 watt-hours to comply with the FAA and TSA. You can determine the watt-hours by multiplying the voltage and amp-hours of the battery e.g. using the ComfyGO X-7 Lightweight Foldable Electric Wheelchair single battery as an example (24V x 7.5ah = 180 WHs) and would therefore be compliant for travel.
      • If the Travel Scooter has two batteries, they must not exceed 160 Wh each.
      • Passengers may carry a maximum of one spare battery not exceeding 300 Wh or twoIf the wheelchair’s lithium-ion battery cannot be removed
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    Your At your Destination:

    Similar to the first step, preparation is key and a good tip is to communicate openly and in advance with the destination airport. Your airline should be able to assist with this, as many airports provide assistance for people with challenged mobility, as well as provide any additional support/ contacts for continuation of your journey, however to provide some context as to what to expect:

    • Your device will be at essentially the same place you dropped it off at the boarding of the plane. Make sure to inspect it for any damages or signs that it was mishandled/dropped. If your power wheelchair appears damaged, alert an airline staff member right away. This way, they can properly handle the situation and start a claim. 
    • Otherwise, if it has not incurred any damage, reattach any belongings, the battery/batteries, and the joystick if you removed it. Verify that it is working properly and if so, you are good to go! 
    • Proceed to baggage claim to pick up any checked baggage and exit the airport to begin your trip.

    Some additional pointers:

    • Whilst no one wants to consider emergency situations, it is important to be prepared for any emergencies e.g. ensure you know how to operate your wheelchair manually if needed and have contact informa
    • Online forums and communities where travelers with mobility challenges share their experiences and tips are always a good way to gain additional information e.g. on the airline, or holiday destination. 
    • Before your trip, schedule a maintenance check for your power wheelchair to ensure it's in good working condition. This reduces the likelihood of unexpected issues during your journey.
    • When booking accommodations at your destination, ensure they are wheelchair-accessible and meet your specific needs. This includes accessible bathrooms, ramps, and door widths and it is advisable to perhaps gain information on the terrain around the facilities and area to enable planning and better comfort.
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    Final Thoughts

    Traveling with a power wheelchair, scooter or aide is entirely possible, and with a little time undertaking the right preparation, communication and attitude,  traveling with a mobility vehicle should help you fully and enjoyably discover new place and live your life to the fullest!

    We at Mobility Plus Direct believe that everyone should be able to feel empowered in their everyday lives, but especially during their holidays and thus we hope that this article provides a few tips in helping you and your loved ones to do that to the fullest.

    If you have questions or inquiries, feel free to reach out to our non-commissioned sales experts for assistance in finding the right mobility device for you. We appreciate you taking the time in reading this article and, and we wish you safe and many happy travels!

    Please note: This is general information, gleaned from our experience and aimed at supporting the reader in navigating the complexities of traveling with mobility aids on air travel and should not be read in isolation, rather followed up with additional research and planning, especially in regards to regulations and policies, which can change, thus it is advisable to check directly with the airlines, air line regulators and government country guidelines before traveling.
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