Question about wheelchairs and flights

Hello everyone. This is my first post on here so please forgive any mistakes.

I am very fortunate to be going on holiday to Spain this year with my family.

However I now use a wheelchair when I am outside and walking more than aminute ot two.

I have heard folks on here speaking about putting a wheelchair in a cover in luggage but how do you get on the plane then.?

Is it best to just sit in the wheelchair throughout the flight ?

I am not sure what to expect or ask for.?

Please could someone help me with my options.



I took my wheelchair on holiday for the 1st time last year - the service was great. I stayed in my chair right until the last minute (and got on the plane 1st) They then put my chair in the hold and we got it back immediately at the other end. A special lift took me up and down so I didn't have to manage the steps.

I don't think you're allowed to sit in your chair during the flight.I think they have special narrow chairs to get you  to your seat, if you can't walk as normal wheelchairs are too wide.

Ask for, and accept all the help you can get as it makes things so much easier.


I'm going to Norway tomorrow on our first cruise!

Sarah x

Hi Sarah

Thanks for the reply.

You make it sound much less hassle than I was expecting.

My only experience of travelling with the wheelchair has been British rail which was eventful and stressful.

I hope you have a wonderful cruise.



Travelling by aircraft seems a daunting experience for anyone Disabled in wheelchair or not, but in reality it isn’t it can be a seamless experience as you are helped every step of the way, (that’s not meant as a pun).

I worked for British Airways for 26 years, as such travelled to many parts of the World. In fact in 1988 I travelled twice around the World, some 48,000 miles in 5 days on aircraft, sponsored for Charity. Not something I would recommend but shows you it is possible.

Stick to these guidelines and you will really enjoy the experience. First on booking your flight tell them you would like assistance from check-in to the gate. This could be a wheelchair with someone pushing or a lift on a Golf type buggy. The gate could be over one mile away so don’t think your doing any favour’s by not asking for help. The aircraft has a certain slot for take off, if you are late because of walking difficulties, THE AIRCRAFT HAS TO GO without you, otherwise it costs mega bucks.

If you have problems walking down the isle when you get aircraft side, no problem, quite a few aircraft now have small wheelchairs especially to take people up and down the isle. If you can’t walk whatsoever, no problem, tell them and facilities will be put in place from check-in to take you to the aircraft by ambulance, high lift you to the aircraft and trained medical staff to lift you in the seat. The golden rule here is ‘tell them.’

With some airlines you can pre-book your seat. If so get one that has more leg room and near the toilets, probably a bulkhead seat. The Civil Aviation Authority has made a ruling that no Disabled person can have a seat by an Emergency Exit for obvious reasons.

If for some reason you get to your destination and your wheelchair is missing or worse still damaged it is the airlines, or should I say good airlines signed up to something called the Haig Protocol to restore or repair your chair, see the airlines staff.

I remember I went to San Diego from Gatwick once and they left my chair behind. I was in a rush had to go down to Tijuana and the only one they had to loan me had a large sign above my head saying ‘AVIS Rent a Car.’ The times I was stopped in my Hotel by people saying “hey fella, where can I get a car.”


Have a good time, don’t worry as far as flying is concerned your husband will be looked after.


Equipment used for his disability eg wheelchairs; crutches travel free.  I have no idea if this extends to a travel kit but I would think they were being rather padantic if they charged; mind you I would be very careful with so called ‘budget airlines.’  Give you airline a ring to clarify.


Don’t forget your EHIC card




Disability assistance

To help us provide you with the necessary service for your needs please let us know how we can help you. Here you will find all the important information you need about:

·                             Airport Authority's responsibility within the EU (European Union)

·                             Mobility assistance at the airport and in-flight

·                             Assistance for visually impaired passengers

·                             Assistance for hearing impaired passengers

·                             Travelling with a Guide or Assistance Dog

·                             Other additional needs

Flights operated by our airline alliance or franchise partners may have their own restrictions so please contact us before you fly.


Airport authority responsibility within the EU

It is now the responsibility of the airport operators, within the EU to assist anyone with a disability during their time at the airport. This includes intellectual disability or impairment, age or any other cause of disability.

Airlines should provide the airport operator with advance information so that the appropriate service can be offered. To enable us to pass your request to them, where possible, please contact us 48 hours in advance.

Contact us

Back to Manage My Booking


Icon for disability. Mobility assistance at the airport and in-flight

Mobility assistance provided at the airport

If you need mobility assistance to help you through the airport, please request it once you have made your booking, so that this service can be provided.

If you already have a booking with British Airways you can request mobility assistance through Manage My Booking.


Back to Manage My Booking


Travelling with your own wheelchair

Once you have made your booking with us, please inform us if you are travelling in your own wheelchair or other mobility aid, so that we can make the necessary arrangements to help you make the most of your journey.

·                             We will store collapsible wheelchairs and mobility aids in the aircraft cabin, where space is available. If space is not available in the cabin, your wheelchair will be carried in the hold.

·                             You can take up to two mobility aids e.g. 2 wheelchairs will be carried free of charge in addition to the applicable checked baggage allowance.

·                             Wherever possible you will be able to stay in your own wheelchair/mobility aid to and from the aircraft side. If required you will be transferred to another wheelchair to take you to your seat on the aircraft.

·                             At airports where it is not possible to take your wheelchair/mobility aid to the gate we may have to take it at check-in and give it back to you in the arrivals baggage hall of your destination airport. If we do this we will transport you from check-in to the aircraft in another wheelchair, or buggy where appropriate and, on arrival, from the aircraft to the baggage hall of your destination airport.

·                             We need to know about the size and weight of your wheelchair so please have these details to hand when you tell us you are bringing it with you.

·                             If you already have a booking with British Airways you can request mobility assistance to help you through the airport via Manage My Booking.

Back to Manage My Booking


Preparing battery powered wheelchairs for travel

It is your responsibility to provide sufficient information about your wheelchair/mobility aid and batteries prior to travel.

Dependant upon the type of wheelchair/mobility aid being used, a number of safety measures will need to be taken before the flight and you will need to provide information to enable airport staff to assist you. Typical examples of those safety measures to be taken are detailed below.


For wheelchairs/mobility aids with dry cell batteries or non-spillable (including gel) batteries

Protect the wheelchair/mobility aid from inadvertent operation i.e. remove the key, deactivate using the joystick, deactivate using an isolation switch or buttons.

If you cannot do this you will need to disconnect the battery and protect it against short circuiting by insulating battery terminals.


For wheelchairs/mobility aids powered by wet-cell (spillable) batteries

·                             Remove all connections from the battery terminals.

·                             Protect the battery terminals to prevent short circuits by covering the terminals with electrical insulating tape or plastic caps.

·                             Ensure that the battery(or batteries) is securely fastened and installed in the wheelchair/mobility aid battery tray.

To ensure safe carriage of your wheelchair/mobility aid it would be very helpful if you brought the manufacturers instructions (re: disconnection of batteries) with you to the airport.

Please note that you cannot travel with wet-cell batteries for any purpose other than for powering wheelchairs.


Companions providing assistance will be required if you are unable to independently:

·                             lift yourself

·                             reach an emergency exit unaided

·                             communicate with the crew on safety matters

·                             unfasten a seat belt

·                             retrieve and fit a life jacket

·                             fit an oxygen mask

The crew cannot assist you with breathing apparatus, eating, medication or going to the toilet, although they will help you get to and from the toilet when there is an on-board wheelchair available.


Facilities on board the aircraft

·                             On-board wheelchairs are available on all flights over 5 hours.

·                             Adapted toilets with handrails on Boeing 747 aircraft. There are no adapted toilets or on-board wheelchairs on flights of less than 5 hours.

·                             A number of seats with lifting armrests for ease of access.

·                             We will do our best to allocate you a seat that is most suitable to your needs. We will not be able to seat you in an emergency exit or cross aisles which form part of an emergency exit, due to safety regulations.

Contact us to request your seat

Back to Manage My Booking


Icon for visually impaired. Visually impaired passengers

If you are visually impaired, please contact us so that we can make the necessary arrangements. 

The assistance that we offer visually impaired passengers is:

·                             An escort to and from the aircraft.

·                             Individual safety briefings and assistance during the flight.

·                             Braille cards are available on some flights and assistance is given to visually impaired and blind passengers.

Contact us

Back to Manage My Booking


Icon for hearing impaired. Hearing impaired passengers

If you are hearing impaired, please contact us so that we can make the necessary arrangements. 

The assistance we can offer hearing impaired passengers is:

·                             An escort to and from the aircraft.

·                             Separate briefings about safety procedures.

·                             Subtitles on the English version of the in-flight safety video.

·                             Induction loop facilities are available at most airports and on board through our in-flight headphones.

·                             Headphones compatible with standard hearing aids switched to the 'T' position.

Contact us

Back to Manage My Booking


Icon for guide dog. Travelling with Guide/Assistance Dogs

Certified Assistance Dogs for blind, deaf or disabled passengers travel free of charge in the aircraft cabin on all British Airways services within the UK.

In addition Assistance Dogs that are compliant with the Pet Travel Scheme may be carried, in the cabin of the aircraft on certain international routes.

Find out about the Pet Travel Scheme

Back to Manage My Booking


Icon for other additional needs. Other additional needs

If you have any other additional needs that may require assistance from British Airways, please contact us.

Contact us


Back to Manage My Booking


US rule for non-discrimination on the basis of disability

British Airways is covered by this rule for any flight that begins or ends at a US airport. A full copy of the rule is available for viewing on request at our airports serving the US.

An accessible copy of the rule can also be obtained from the US Dept of Transport directly using the following methods:

·                             For calls made from within the United States, by telephone via the Toll-Free Hotline for Air Travelers with Disabilities at 1-800-778-4838 (Voice) or 1-800-455-9880 (TTY)

·                             By Telephone to the Aviation Consumer Protection Division at 202-366-2220 (Voice) or 202-366-0511 (TTY)

·                             By mail to the Air Consumer Protection Division, C-75, U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave., SE., West Building, Room W96-432, Washington, DC 20590

·                             On the Aviation Consumer Protection Division's Web site -


Hi GGood

Wow,thanks so much for your most comprehensive info and email.

It is fantastic to know what to ask for and what to expect.

I can now book the flight and begin to look forward to the holiday.