If you’re hoping to book a getaway and want to fly abroad, then you need to be aware of regulations and accessibility of airlines before you go, especially if this is your first time flying with an electric lithium battery wheelchair.
As providers of folding electric wheelchairs, we’ve collated information to help you decide which airline may be the best provider for you. In a previous article, we wrote about the basics of taking an electric wheelchair on an airplane, so give that a read for regulations about batteries especially.
Accessible UK Airlines
In no particular order, here are some of the UK airlines and their policies on making their airplanes accessible.
British Airways Accessibility
British Airways (BA) have 3 levels of accessible service. Any accessibility requirements must be raised at least 48 hours before you fly. Wheelchair users should choose service level 3 if they are fully reliant on a wheelchair, and service level 2 if they have some reliance on a wheelchair but can walk to the toilets and potentially up the stairs to board an airplane.
There are on-board wheelchairs on every BA plane to help you get between your airplane seat and the toilets. If you can’t get yourself to an emergency exit, toilets or to your seat, then BA will ask you to bring a carer or assistant, which can be a family member or friend, who will need to be able to help you.
Regarding toilets, British Airways state that they have two wheelchair accessible toilets on their Airbus A380s, one upstairs and one on the main deck, and on the Boeing 787s, they have one wheelchair accessible washroom.
BA are also one of the more generous with their battery allowance, alongside Virgin Atlantic, allowing you to take up to 2x10aH with you, although it’s always best to check per flight.
Learn more on the British Airways website at the links below:
Unlike other airlines, EasyJet boards passengers with additional mobility needs after their ‘Speedy Boarding’ passengers, not first. You will have to wait more time than usual because of this.
If you can’t get yourself to an emergency exit, you have to bring a companion (over 16 and able to physically lift you). On board wheelchairs are available on all EasyJet own flights, however EasyJet state that this cannot be guaranteed for their other brands. Heavier wheelchairs may need to be left with the ground crew earlier, however lighter wheelchairs can be used up to the point of boarding, but the website doesn’t specify what the weight difference is.
You will need to show the ground crew how to disengage the motor or immobilise it yourself. You can keep batteries in the wheelchair, even if they are detachable. If you do this, tape them in to prevent any damage in transit.
Before you fly, you will need to email special.assistance@easyJet.com with the following information on your electric wheelchair. If you aren’t sure on any of the answers, please contact us, and we will be able to help:
- Reference number
- Flight details and date
- Passenger name
- Name of model and manufacturer
- Length, height and width (metric)
- Weight (KG)
- Battery type (in Watt/h)
- Details of how to inhibit the circuits and isolate the battery to prevent the electric wheelchair or mobility aid from inadvertently turning on during the flight
For more information, please see the EasyJet website:
When you arrive at the airport, please go directly to the Customer Assistance desk, rather than your booking station.
The website says they will accept electric wheelchairs as long as:
- They have the make, model, height, width, length and weight (unladen)
- The wheelchair battery is a dry/gel cell, or lithium ion/polymer type battery only. All LITH-TECH wheelchairs are lithium battery, so you will not have a problem here when using our wheelchairs.
- Accidental operation of the mobility aid can be prevented (e.g., using a key and or a shielded isolation switch, or by separating the power cable plugs or connectors between the batteries and controls).
- Batteries must be securely attached to the mobility aid. However, if the device needs to be collapsed for carriage, which means the batteries must be removed, lithium batteries must be protected and carried in the cabin.
- Any batteries removed must be protected from short circuit.
- The operating manual must be brought with you to the airport. If you can’t find your copy, please contact us and we will help.
- “If your chair weighs more than 23kg, we will endeavour to arrange carriage.” Some of LITH-TECH’s wheelchairs are more than 23kg without batteries, so please be aware.
On board wheelchairs aren’t provided by default and will need to be requested in advance with FlyBe.
Learn more on their website: https://www.flybe.com/en/passenger-information/special-assistance
Ryanair, like other budget airlines, only allow two wheelchairs per flight so book well in advance, especially for popular routes. Before you fly you will also need to provide details of your electric wheelchair through the online form, or by contacting Ryanair.
The operating manual must be brought to the airport and make sure to keep it in your hand luggage for ease of retrieval.
Every Ryanair aircraft has an on-board aisle wheelchair for your use.
Learn more on the Ryanair website here: https://help.ryanair.com/hc/en-gb/articles/360017683097-Electric-Wheelchairs-Mobility-scooters
Virgin Atlantic Accessibility
Virgin Atlantic require the longest notice of any airline, with at least 72 hours’ notice (24 more than other airlines).
There is accessible seating on every airline, although its position on the plane does differ. Where possible, Virgin Atlantic will have your wheelchair waiting for you at boarding, but this does depend on the airport you will be flying from.
When it comes to wheelchairs on board, their website regulations seem more rigorous than most, so it’s best to contact them directly to check whether yours will be allowed.
One great thing about Virgin Atlantic is that the accessible toilets on board have a transfer chair, something other aircraft don’t. Virgin Atlantic is also more generous than other airlines with their battery allowance on most flights.
Learn more on the Virgin Atlantic website here:
Like other budget airlines, there is a limit on the number of wheelchairs allowed on the flight, which is no more than three, and they must be able to fold. Thankfully, all LITH-TECH wheelchairs are folding, making you able to fly with Jet2. Worth noting Jet2 used to be great with customers with mobility issues and mobility aids. However they are now becoming the worse and least accessible airline to fly with. If you plan to use them just ask lots and lots of questions so you know what to expect.
Before you book, you have to ring their special assistance team with the following:
- Make and model of motorised device – if your mobility device is a manual wheelchair with a separate battery pack, you will have to provide the make and model of the battery pack
- Type of battery
- Number of batteries used to operate your device
- Number of spare batteries
- The weight of your device in kilograms
- Dimensions in centimetres (max. height when reduced 81cm)
- Instructions on how to switch off and make your device safe for flight
- Instructions on how to collapse it to 81cm or less (if applicable)
With Jet2, it is worth noting that those with mobility needs can’t get extra legroom if you require mobility support and you can’t get aisle seats either. If you need the on-board wheelchair, you must check in advance as it is not available on all planes. Jet2 are getting stricter on transfers, so it’s best to be prepared.
Learn more on the Jet2 website here: