We’re planning a family vacation for this summer, flying from Chicago to Florida, including my father-in-law who uses a power scooter. Are scooters allowed on airplanes, and if so, what do we need to know in advance to make the trip as practical as possible? -Michelle
The great news is that between advances in mobility technology and disability rights legislation like the Americans with Disabilities Act, air travel has never been more accessible than today. However, to make it as comfortable as possible when traveling with a power mobility device – such as a scooter or power chair — there are protocols to understand. Therefore, let’s take a look at what you should know from booking tickets to landing when flying with a power mobility device.
Individually speaking, consumers may prefer one airline over another, and that’s fine, as they all domestically adhere to the same power mobility device regulations (carriers based outside of the U.S. may vary). So, as a traveler with a disability, remember, you’re also a consumer, so shop to your preferences and budget. However, whether you book through a travel agent, online discount site or the airline directly, all airlines request that you promptly notify them that you’ll be traveling with a power mobility device, as well as let them know of any physical assistance you may need. For example, if you’re non-ambulatory, the airlines will provide transfer assistance from your power mobility device onto an “aisle chair” that will escort you to your seat.
Airlines recommend travelers with power mobility devices arrive at the airport one hour earlier than normal. When checking in at the ticket counter, you’ll have the option to check your power mobility device as “baggage” or as a “gate check.” As baggage, your power mobility device must be left at the counter; however, a gate check allows you to drive your power mobility device to the door of the airplane. It’s recommended by most that you choose a gate check, as that allows you to use your power mobility device throughout the airport. At this point, you’ll also be asked to fill out an information card for your power mobility device, including its battery type, overall weight, and so on. All commercially manufactured power mobility devices now use sealed lead acid or lithium-based batteries that remain installed during air transport. Nevertheless, you do need to inform the airline of the battery type, so if you’re unfamiliar, refer to your owner’s manual or the battery labels. Lastly, if boarding assistance is needed, request it at this time. With the gate check tag and information card affixed to your scooter, you’re off to the gate.
Check in at the gate and, as a passenger with a mobility impairment, you’ll be allowed to “pre-board” along with any companions. You’ll drive your power mobility device to the door of the airplane, at which point you’ll be escorted to your seat, either by walking if able or by aisle chair. Before handing over your mobility device for cargo storage, disconnect the power, if possible. On a scooter, this is as simple as removing the key and taking it with you, or on a power chair, unplug the hand control, if feasible. Then, place the power mobility device in freewheel.
Travel scooters and power chairs disassemble into very portable pieces. However, because of large airplane cargo hulls, travel mobility scooters and power chairs do not need to be dissembled. On full-size scooters and power chairs, you may wish to fold steering tillers and seats to make them as compact as possible. If you have a pressure management cushion or other removable items, you may bring them on the plane with you. …And, you’re on your way!
Once landed, passengers will debark, your power mobility device will be brought to the door of the plane, and you’ll be reunited
Notify the airline upon the ticket booking that you’ll have a power mobility device
Arrive an extra hour early for check in
Request a “gate check” for your power mobility device at the counter
Know your power mobility device’s battery type and overall weight
Disconnect the power, if possible
Bring any removable accessories on-board with you
I hope we’ve answered the question “are scooters allowed on airplanes?” for you! By knowing the regulated process of air travel with a power mobility device, not only is it extremely practical, but ultra-convenient – namely because you’ll have your mobility wherever you go.