How To Request And Use Wheelchair Assistance At The Airport

Travel plans don't always align seamlessly with life's circumstances. Travelers who have recently experienced a health issue, are recovering from a medical procedure, or live with a condition that limits their mobility often have to incorporate extra planning time into organizing their air travel. When getting around on your own isn't extremely convenient, airport wheelchair assistance can make a huge difference in getting where you're going smoothly and safely.

Recognizing you could use some help moving from Point A to Point B is often followed by questions about how to get a wheelchair at the airport. Fortunately, the process is fairly straightforward as long as you take the time to reach out in advance of your departure. The U.S. Department of Transportation's Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 provides those needing wheelchair assistance at the airport with the peace of mind they deserve upon arrival.

Under the terms of this act, US airlines and connecting foreign airlines, are required to help their passengers with disabilities access the wheelchair transportation they require on-site. This includes assistance to and from the gates as well as during connections. Airline staff must be readily available to provide this assistance upon request.

Plan ahead for stress-free assistance and travel

Requesting wheelchair assistance at the airport as early as possible is always recommended. It's often advisable to call the airline directly to set up this service at least 48 hours in advance of your flight if not earlier. A customer service representative can include this request in your reservation, but there are also options to make the request online in some cases. For example, American Airlines gives passengers the opportunity to indicate their wheelchair assistance request on the passenger details page when they book or manage their reservations digitally.

Being an early bird to the airport on the day of your departure is also a good idea no matter how you've requested wheelchair assistance. This gives you ample time to check-in and make your way to the security screening area where a wheelchair attendant typically meets passengers. You'll likely talk about your limitations with the attendant before heading for the gate to ensure your needs are properly met along the way.

The airport will have wheelchairs available for passengers to use, but you can always opt to use your own wheelchair if it's preferable. If you've come to the airport with a personal wheelchair, the wheelchair attendant will help you check it at the gate. They're also responsible for helping passengers get settled on the plane when wheelchair assistance extends to boarding as well.

What to expect when you reach your destination

When you request wheelchair assistance, help is organized at both your departure and arrival airport. Typically, those receiving wheelchair assistance will be last to deplane so that an attendant can provide the needed help safely. If you travel with your own wheelchair and check it at the gate, the attendant will help assemble the wheelchair for you as well.

Your wheelchair attendant will then transport you from the gate to baggage claim. If you need to make any necessary stops along the way, simply ask. Attendants are responsible for taking you where you need to go.

Wheelchair attendants can stay with passengers upon request until they are picked up at the airport by family or friends. Once you're on your way, the attendant will handle taking the wheelchair back to its on-site airport storage area if you didn't use your own wheelchair for transport. It's important for those needing wheelchair assistance to note that they can always contact the airline's Complaints Resolution Official if they encounter any difficulties or problems with their assistance request during travel.

Use of a wheelchair doesn't have to stand in the way of smooth and safe travel plans. Knowing how to request and use wheelchair assistance at the airport can make your experience much easier overall. Having the help you need in place lets you focus on your destination rather than stressing about how you're going to get through the airport.