- Last Updated: 12 July 2023 12 July 2023
Before taking off into the friendly skies
For air travel, if you are disabled, you may be entitled to certain allowances. Check with the airline. Plan to get to the airport with plenty of time in order to reduce stress.
If you need a wheelchair to get from curbside to the gate and are relying of the airline supplying it, allow extra time. Some airports have the airlines’ personnel doing transport, and some airlines use a contractor. It pays to ask.
Check with your airline regarding luggage restrictions and additional costs. You are no longer allowed to bring your own water or drinks on a plane, but you will be able to purchase something in the secure area prior to boarding. It is a good idea to do so.
For carry on restrictions, check with the airline. With the TSA limits on liquids to three ounces per bottle, pay attention to sizes if carrying liquid medications such as cough syrup. Many companies now sell their products in travel sizes such as shampoo, conditioner and mouth wash. Make sure your carry on meets requirements both in size and weight and follow TSA rules.
Currently, all medications and health/beauty items need to be packed into a single, quart-sized, zip-top plastic bag (usually one bag per person). Pack non-essential items in your checked luggage but check with your airline for any additional surcharges on checked luggage.
Go the restroom a few minutes prior to boarding. Ask the agent when they will announce the boarding and judge accordingly. For landing, normally, the plane starts its descent about 45-60 minutes prior to landing. Again, go to the restroom before the seatbelt sign comes on and it is too late. It just takes awareness and planning. If you are making a one hour flight, there will not be enough time to visit the restroom on board and/or weather conditions during your flight might limit getting up when you need to.
If you need to pre-board a plane, make sure you have a letter from your doctor stating your needs and that you need to pre-board and why. Rules have tightened since 9/11 and no longer can you just ask to pre-board.
Since many patients have issues with body temperature control, plan to dress in layers. Airplanes have recycled air so it may be helpful to take precautions such as taking vitamin C if it works for you.
Any special diet considerations, such as sugar-free or gluten-free, must be accommodated. Make sure you have something to eat with you, not in checked luggage. Should there be any delay in your travel or it takes longer than anticipated, you will not have to walk miles to find something to eat.
Have readily available your tickets and boarding pass as well as any directions or maps you’ll need upon arrival.