Plane Travel & Wheelchairs

Most of us like to travel to cool places and although there are many forms of traveling, one in particular can be a little frustrating. Traveling in a plane with a power wheelchair can be challenging, as a lot of people who work for the airlines or in the airport are not educated enough on how to handle people with disabilities or placing a wheelchair or power wheelchair into the cargo hold underneath the airplane. For me, I find that I receive a lot of assistance in the terminal at the door of the plane and getting into the plane. Still, we worry about what the crew is doing with our power wheelchairs if they’re not educated on how to operate it or handle it. They see it simply as a mobility device, yet it’s not just a mobility device for us. Our power wheelchair is our life.

Over the past couple years I have found that if you take your motorized wheelchair directly to the door of the plane and speak to the staff who are going to load it into the airplane, you can give them specific instructions to help avoid any confusion or damage that happens during this process. Yet, the trick is whether the information you provided to the staff at the airport has been relayed to the crew waiting at your destination to unload your motorized wheelchair. You hope that the information has been passed on, so the staff at your destination can smoothly unload your electric wheelchair without any issues. We all know that feeling when you are sitting there and looking out the window while still onboard the plane as they unload your wheelchair (or anybody’s wheelchair). You wonder what they’re going to do and if they really do truly care about making sure your chair is safely returned to you, in one piece. The best advice I can give is make sure you’re very thorough with speaking to the people who are transporting your power chair. It makes it a lot easier on the crew and the staff and helps everyone out, because they don’t have to worry about unhappy passengers and you have peace of mind knowing that your power chair is returned to you in the same condition as before. We have to work together in educating airline crew members and hopefully those crew members will share what they learn with their fellow crew members.  

If during your travels you see a staff member throwing a wheelchair around or handling it in a rough manner, you can always say something! Talk to the stewardess on the plane and have them contact the people on the ground and tell them to change their act and handle the wheelchair carefully and properly. You may need to do this more than once. Sometimes, it takes repeated efforts of explaining how power wheelchairs work and how easily they can be damaged. We have to keep fighting the good fight and educating people who work for airports and airlines and eventually, hopefully, what they learn sticks!

No matter where you travel in the country or overseas, the ground crew and how they treat mobility devices can vary from one place to the next. It’s important to always be attentive to how they are handling your chair or someone else’s wheelchair. And if worst comes to worst, you can always use another form of travel. You can travel by car, train or bus. And those trips are sometimes the most scenic, the most fun and a lot less stressful.

About Jesse Cuellar: Jesse is an artist and a brand ambassador for Quantum Rehab®. An accident left him paralyzed from the neck down, so he uses his mouth to paint and expresses himself through his art. Jesse lives in St. Louis, Missouri, and enjoys painting and hanging out with his friends. Click here to learn more about Jesse.