You must book special assistance at least 48 hours before your flight to make sure that the airline can meet your needs.
Are you fit to fly?
The airline may ask for information about your condition or impairment to make sure that you're fit to fly. You are usually the best judge of this, but speak with your GP or consultant if you're unsure. Buy travel insurance as soon as you book your trip so that you're covered if anything happens before you go.
Let the airline know as soon as possible if you feel that you're not fit to fly after booking a flight.
What support and facilities are available?
Most airports and airlines offer support and facilities for disabled passengers, including:
accessible toilets and changing rooms at airports
buggies and hover buses to help you get across the airport and to your gate
rooms or lounges that can be quieter for people with anxiety and sensory issues
pagers that let you know when you can board your flight
Sunflower lanyards that let airport staff know you have a less visible condition or impairment
Different staff may support you at different points in the airport.
Think about the equipment you use every day, like a wheelchair or toilet seat, and check if you can take it on the plane. As well as your luggage allowance, you should be able to take 2 pieces of disability equipment free of charge.
You will need to give details about your equipment's weight and size and a manual for your wheelchair when you book special assistance.
Think about loading mindfulness apps or gentle music onto your phone or tablet if you're anxious about flying.
Will you need medication?
Plan medication for your trip at least 4 weeks before you travel.
Check online or with your GP if you can take your medication into the country you're visiting. You may need to bring a copy of your prescription and a letter from your doctor. Your doctor may charge for this.
Ask your airline about restrictions for medication too. You may only be able to take 100ml of liquid medication in your hand luggage.
It can be a good idea to take twice the amount of medication you need. Split this into 2 separate bags in case some is lost.
If you're flying with a personal assistant (PA) or carer, you need to consider the cost of their air ticket. Check the airport and airline policies if you're travelling alone. Some airlines insist you travel with a companion if you are not able to travel on your own. This is because cabin staff are limited in how they can help you.
Warning Flying with an assistance dog
You have the right to fly with an assistance dog, but you must follow the rules on pet travel. Check the rules for the country you're travelling to.
When you book your flight, you will be asked if you're a 'passenger with reduced mobility (PRM)' and need 'special assistance'. Check this box and select what support you need before, during and after your flight. This includes things like pagers to alert you when you're boarding and help with directions in the airport.
The airline may call or email you for more information, such as:
details about your condition or impairment
the brand, model and dimensions of equipment you want to take on the plane
a manual for your wheelchair
Use the airline app, save or print out all of your booking confirmation, including:
special assistance you've agreed
transport and parking
luggage and equipment
Save contact numbers on your phone, like your airline helpline and special assistance desk. Printing a map of the car park and airport can be helpful too.
Getting to the airport
Plan how you'll get to the airport and give yourself plenty of time. If you're taking public transport, you may want to try your route before.
Check how close you can park to the entrance if you're driving and if there's a time limit. Some airports offer a valet service where someone will meet you at the entrance and park your car for you. It's a good idea to contact them before if you have an adapted vehicle.
Finding your booked assistance
Find the special assistance desk as soon as you arrive at the airport. They can help you check in luggage and make sure you have the support you need to get to your flight. It can help to have a letter explaining your condition and the support you need to give to the staff.
Going through check-in and security
When checking in your luggage and equipment, you may need to take it to a different desk for oversized baggage. Any equipment that stays with you will need a sticker or tag to show it's been checked in.
Security can be busy, but there is usually a separate lane for disabled passengers. Common security measures include:
a scanner which may affect things like hearing aids
being 'patted down' to check you for items that are not allowed
swabbing or wiping your clothing, shoes or equipment to check for unauthorised substances
scanning your shoes and equipment like crutches
You may be asked for the same information at different points in the airport. This can be frustrating. But it's the staff's job to make sure you have the support you need.
Warning If you feel uncomfortable in security
Let the staff know if you want to be patted down privately or away from the queue.
Boarding the plane
You may have to travel some distance across the airport to reach your boarding gate. Most airports have maps on their website so you can check your route. Depending on the distance, you may want to book a buggy to help you.
From the gate, there are different ways of boarding the plane. You may need to take a shuttle bus to reach it. These can be crowded. If you feel anxious about this, ask if there's another way of getting to the plane.
There will be equipment to help you board the plane, such as:
a ramp, sometimes called an aviramp
a lift, sometimes called an ambulift
a narrower transfer wheelchair
Staff can help you move into a transfer chair if you use a wheelchair. Talk with them first to give clear instructions on how they should help you. Your wheelchair will be put in the hold with other luggage.
Warning Be clear what you need staff to do
Ask staff to stop if you feel uncomfortable about something or at risk of injury. Help them work out how they can support you better or ask for someone else to help you.
Arriving at your destination
The special assistance you book also includes support on your arrival. Staff may wait for other passengers to leave the plane before helping you. You may have new staff to help you at the airport. Your equipment will be at the baggage reclaim point unless you arrange otherwise.
Warning Explaining your condition abroad
Find words and phrases related to your condition or have a letter prepared in the local language. For example, you may need to explain what support you need to staff at your destination.