Can a Person in a Wheelchair Fly?

For some wheelchair users, air travel can seem like a daunting experience. But the good news is that it is possible for people with disabilities to fly, and there are regulations and policies in place to ensure that they have a safe and comfortable journey. However, there are many considerations to take note of before embarking on a flight. This article will outline what wheelchair users should keep in mind when planning to travel by air.

What are the considerations for wheelchair users planning to fly?

Understanding Airline Policies and Regulations Regarding Wheelchair Use

One of the most important considerations for wheelchair users is understanding the policies and regulations of the airline they will be travelling with. Every airline has its own set of rules regarding the use of wheelchairs, assistive devices, and other accommodations, so it’s essential to do thorough research before booking a flight.

Securing Appropriate Accommodations for Air Travel

When booking a flight, wheelchair users must ensure they receive appropriate accommodations for their air travel needs. This might include reserving an aisle chair to help them board and exit the plane, or requesting an onboard wheelchair for use during their flight. The user should double-check these arrangements with the airline before the day of their flight.

Preparing Your Assistive Devices for the Flight

It’s essential for wheelchair users to prepare their assistive devices properly before the flight. Users should keep their manual or power wheelchair in good working condition and check for any loose or damaged parts. It’s also important to label assistive devices with the user’s name, as well as contact information in case the device is damaged during transport. Many airlines allow wheelchair users to bring their assistive devices onboard, so it’s crucial to confirm this with the airline in advance.

What are the requirements for boarding and using a wheelchair during the flight?

Check-in Procedures for Wheelchair Users

When checking in for a flight, wheelchair users will need to provide information about their needs to the airline staff. Wheelchair users should share information about the type of assistance they require and the device they will be using. This information will help airline personnel to provide suitable accommodations.

Boarding the Plane with a Wheelchair

Boarding the plane with a wheelchair requires users to use an aisle chair. This is essentially a smaller wheelchair that can fit down the narrow aisle of an airplane. The airline staff will help the user transfer from their personal wheelchair to the aisle chair, which they will use to board the plane. Once on the plane, passengers with disabilities should request the airline personnel’s help for reaching their seat, stowing their chair, and getting situated in their seat.

Using the Restroom During the Flight

It’s important to take note that wheelchair users may face challenges using the restroom during the flight; the plane’s restrooms may not be wheelchair-friendly. In these cases, the user might still request assistance from airline personnel, who will help them transfer to an airline-approved wheelchair, which can fit into the restroom.

How can wheelchair users ensure their safety and comfort on board?

Selecting the Right Seating Options

Wheelchair users should consider the type of seating option that would suit their needs best. Users can opt for seats by the aisle or bulkhead seats that come with more legroom and removable armrests. Users with upper body strength or power wheelchair users could also choose to sit in regular airplane seats. When booking the flight, users can identify their seating need to the airline and request a specific seat.

Stowing and Securing Your Wheelchair and Carry-on Items

When the wheelchair is being stowed, the user should make sure that the chair is secure and labelled with their name and contact information. Wheelchairs can be damaged during the flight, so users must ensure that their chair is well-packaged. The users should also pack their carry-on items with similar care by keeping fragile items in a protected location and labelling the bags and electronic devices with contact information.

Communicating Effectively with Airline Employees and Other Passengers

When travelling as a wheelchair user, it is essential to communicate effectively with airline personnel and other passengers. Users should have a polite and clear way of communicating what they need to ensure a smooth and hassle-free journey for everyone involved.

What are some useful tips for wheelchair users to prepare for air travel?

Planning Ahead for Your Air Travel Needs

Planning is key for wheelchair users before undertaking air travel. Users should take note of all the required accommodations or assistive devices they will need beforehand, such as the power source for their wheelchair or specific seating arrangements. When possible, they should also book direct flights to reduce the stress of layovers.

Familiarizing Yourself with Air Travel Terminology

Wheelchair users should familiarize themselves with air travel terminology to make communication with airline personnel easier. It is important to understand the different assistive devices the airline provides, such as an onboard wheelchair or an aisle chair. They should also learn about policies related to the baggage and the weight limit allowed by different airlines.

Understanding Your Rights as a Wheelchair User Under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA)

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) serves as an important guideline for protecting the rights of passengers with disabilities. Wheelchair users should familiarize themselves with the ACAA and share their rights information with the airline personnel in case of any disputes or misunderstandings. The act outlines various provisions for ensuring that passengers with disabilities have access to air travel on equal terms with other passengers.

What are the key regulations and authorities governing air travel for wheelchair users?

Department of Transportation (DOT) Regulations on Accessible Air Travel

The Department of Transportation (DOT) enforces regulations on all air carriers providing service in the United States. These regulations include provisions for wheelchair users, such as accessible restroom facilities, seating accommodations, and stowage of assistive devices.

The Role of Airline Accessibility Committees in Promoting a More Inclusive Air Travel Experience

Many airlines have established an accessibility committee to help promote inclusion in air travel for passengers with disabilities. These committees help shape airline policies, ensuring that the needs of passengers with disabilities are being duly considered. It also serves as a means for addressing complaints regarding air travel for passengers with disabilities.

Guidelines for Seating Accommodations and Accessible Restrooms on Planes

There are guidelines in place that prescribe the need for accessible seating accommodations and restrooms on airplanes. Airlines must provide bulkhead seats and removable armrests to accommodate passengers with disabilities. They should also ensure that the restrooms on the plane are accessible to passengers with disabilities. In the case of larger aircraft, the carriers must also have onboard wheelchairs available.


Q: Can a person in a wheelchair fly?

A: Yes, a person in a wheelchair can fly. Airlines are required to provide accommodations for passengers with disabilities, including those who use wheelchairs.

Q: What kind of accommodations can airlines provide for wheelchair users?

A: Airlines can provide several types of accommodations for wheelchair users, including but not limited to: boarding assistance, storage for wheelchairs during flights, assistive devices, and accessible seating.

Q: Are there any restrictions on the type of wheelchair that can be brought onto a plane?

A: Yes, there are some restrictions on the type of wheelchair that can be brought onto a plane. Wheelchairs with spillable batteries must be stowed in the cargo compartment. Additionally, manual wheelchairs that do not fit in the overhead compartments must also be stowed in the cargo compartment.

Q: What is the Air Carrier Access Act?

A: The Air Carrier Access Act is a law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in air travel. This includes providing accommodations, such as assistive devices and accessible seating, for passengers with disabilities.

Q: Can a person with a power wheelchair fly?

A: Yes, a person with a power wheelchair can fly. However, the airline may require that the battery be disconnected and packaged separately for safety reasons.

Q: How can a wheelchair user board the plane?

A: Wheelchair users can board the plane in several ways, such as using an aisle chair to board the plane or by having a designated crew member assist them onto the plane.

Q: Can a wheelchair user use the restroom during the flight?

A: Yes, wheelchair users can use the restroom during the flight. However, they may need assistance from a crew member in order to use the restroom.

Q: What is a complaint resolution official?

A: A complaint resolution official (CRO) is the airline’s expert on disability accommodations. If a passenger with a disability experiences any issues during their flight, they can request to speak with the CRO who can work to resolve the issue.

Q: Can a wheelchair user sit in a bulkhead seat?

A: Yes, a wheelchair user can sit in a bulkhead seat. However, they may be required to move to another seat in the event of an emergency.

Q: What should a wheelchair user do to plan ahead for their flight?

A: Wheelchair users should plan ahead for their flights by notifying the airline of their needs in advance, arriving at the airport early, and bringing any necessary assistive devices or equipment. Additionally, they should be prepared to discuss their specific accommodation needs with the airline.


In conclusion, air travel is possible for wheelchair users, and with the right preparation, they can have a safe and comfortable journey. However, users should research the policies and regulations of the airline that they will be taking and plan accordingly to ensure that they receive proper accommodations. Wheelchair users should communicate effectively with airlines, share their concerns and requirements, and ensure that their wheelchair and assistive devices are well-prepared for the journey. By adhering to applicable regulations and policies, wheelchair users can fully enjoy their air travel experience.


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