Before booking a flight as an electric wheelchair or powerchair user, you will need to know how practical it is, if there are any safety restrictions, and what you can travel with.
Whether travelling for business or leisure, knowing the bestairlines to travel with, especially as an electric wheelchair user, can help you enjoy the journey as much as the destination.
Flying with reduced mobility
Many airlines are wheelchair friendly and have seating that accommodates those with reduced mobility. However, the availability of these seats and the terms of wheelchair travel are largely specific to each airline brand and the type of aircraft. If you’re concerned about flying with your wheelchair, it’s best to check the terms and conditions on their website before completing a booking.
You’ll need to know if an aeroplane can accommodate your electric wheelchair requirements, which is based on battery size, wattage and hold dimensions. It’s worth remembering that all electric wheelchairs will be stored in the hold.
Every airport will have specific assistance and other services available for wheelchairs users and those with reduced mobility, which can be worth using. You should also consider the following before flying:
- Security checks
- If personal assistance is available
- Any additional costs associated with extra services
LITH TECH recommends: When you’re planning on flying with your wheelchair, consider whether your travel insurance covers any mobility equipment. This is a critical detail, because you may require additional cover to ensure that your electric wheelchair is safe and protected wherever you’re travelling to. This should include insuring your wheelchair from damage during transit, or where you can enjoy peace of mind that you will be compensated for any damage to your wheelchair that happens when it’s in the hold.
So, can I travel with my electric wheelchair on an aeroplane?
You can use your electric wheelchair before checking-in and can even travel with a mobility device as long as it meets the airlines safety requirements. Before travelling with your electric wheelchair, ensure it’s ready for the trip. This means removing any additional parts before being stored in the hold, such as the batteries.
Your wheelchair will be loaded onto the plane upright if it’s within certain dimensions, which are dependent on the type of aircraft.
The following suggests maximum wheelchair dimensions per aircraft type:
|Airbus A330, A380||160cm||150cm||150cm|
|Airbus 320, 321||84cm||100cm||125cm|
|Boeing 747, 787||160cm||150cm||150cm|
When traveling with your electric wheelchair, consider the size of its dimensions. You’ll need ideally a lightweight but functional wheelchair that uses the best possible components. All LITH TECH Smart wheelchairs are designed to fit within hold dimensions, making them ideal for flights.
Which airlines accommodate wheelchairs?
Nowadays, airlines have improved in terms of offering greater accessibility options and a more comfortable journey for those travelling with electric wheelchairs. Many airlines offer customer care and services, including additional assistance if it’s requested.
Here are some of the major airlines and how they operate.
1. Virgin Atlantic
Largely, the airline is accommodating to mobility issues, with the likes of adjustable arm rests and extra assistance from cabin crew when it’s required. Importantly, Virgin Atlantic offer support and assistance from booking-in through to the flight.
In terms of mobility aid, passengers can bring their own electric wheelchairs and can request support with stowing it, or having it returned once a flight has landed. Whilst there is plenty of assistance, wheelchairs must be sensibly stowed, so they should be within the dimensions and weight restrictions of most Boeing or Airbus models.
Virgin Atlantic will support passengers with more complicated needs, but the appropriate forms and requests will need to be completed.
When flying with Emirates, if you disclose your needs at the time of booking, you can travel with mobility devices. From booking-in, assistance services are available to help those with wheelchairs get to and from the departure gate. You can onboard flights with your wheelchair so long as it meets requirements of “accessible travel”.
Mobility aids, such as wheelchairs, can be brought into the cabin under certain circumstances, but this is dependent on the availability of space. If you can’t bring along your wheelchair on a flight, it will be checked-in to the aircraft hold.
3. British Airlines (BA)
BA has a commitment to travel assistance and accessibility. After declaring to the airline your needs and requirements, you can bring your wheelchair on a flight where it’s safely within the right dimensions. When you manage a booking, you’ll be able to notify BA of your level of need, if you require further assistance.
When checking-in your wheelchair, the airline requests the following information:
- Wheelchair type (such as a battery powered model)
- Tare weight (un-laden)
- Number of batteries installed
- Type of battery you’re traveling with (such as lithium batteries)
- Any instructions for operating it.
Unlike other airlines, BA provides users with EU and US regulations. It’s helpful to remember that rules can be different depending on where you’re traveling to.
Wheelchairs along with other mobility devices are permitted where the airports have the required facilities to on/off load equipment. Wheelchair assistance is offered too, but users should advise EasyJet about any requirements prior, or within two-days before take-off. Users can travel with two mobility items, such as their wheelchair, and any further carry-ons will be charged extra. Where other facilities may be lacking, users should inform EasyJet so that arrangements can be planned.
Seat dimensions are as follows:
- Pitch: 29” (or 72.5cm)
- Width: 17.5” (or 44cm)
Which batteries are safe for air travel?
Many airlines are similar and offer users the ability to board a flight and stow their electric or battery-operated wheelchair in the hold. Regardless of the flight you travel on, there are regulations with which batteries are safe for air travel.
The majority of electric wheelchairs on the UK market are not eligible for air travel. But all LITH TECH’s electric wheelchairs are compliant with air travel restrictions, and offers the user easy-to-use, lightweight designs that are optimal for many other travel scenarios. The LITH-TECH Smart Chair 1XL, for example, complies with the new airport lithium battery guidelines, which is powered by two 24v 6AH batteries.
Air travel compliance is regulated by the CAA, or Civil Aviation Authority, which states how “spare” batteries, or those uninstalled, can include lithium ion and lithium metals and they must be within your carry-on.
According to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), no more than two “spare” batteries can be carried and boarded per person.
The exact regulations read as follows:
“Spare batteries for portable electronic devices containing lithium-ion batteries exceeding a Watt-hour rating of 100 Wh but not exceeding 160 Wh when carried for personal use.”
You can travel with the following:
- One battery with 300-watt hours (Wh)
- Two (spare) batteries not exceeding 160 watts each
It’s also noted that each battery must be protected, such as wrapped in its original packaging, or insulated to prevent short circuiting.
If you’re planning on travelling, ensure you take the right steps with your wheelchair. This means using an electric wheelchair with air safe batteries. For more information about travelling with your wheelchair, get in touch.
[…] 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 […]