Coronavirus: information and updates

Warning Book assistance in advance

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.

See what's available at your airport and airline (Civil Aviation Authority)

What equipment can you take?

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.

Transport support services for disabled people: Planes (GOV.UK)

What would make your flight more comfortable?

Seating and toilets are often narrow on planes. Ask the airline:

  • how they store equipment like crutches on the flight
  • if they can provide extra pillows and blankets if you need them

Tryb4uFly can help you work out what you need and loan equipment to make your journey easier.

Book a cabin assessment (Tryb4uFly)

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 be able to take only 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.

Can I take my medicine abroad? (NHS)

Who are you travelling with?

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.

Taking your pet abroad (GOV.UK)

Preparing for your journey

Booking special assistance

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. You will usually have to wait for other passengers to leave the plane before staff help you.

You may have new staff to help you at the airport.

You can ask for staff to bring your mobility equipment to the aircraft door. If you do not, it will usually be at the oversized baggage reclaim point.

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.

Download the free Accessible Travel Phrasebook (Lonely Planet)

Travel checklist

Check the status of your flight before you leave home and make sure that you have:

  • your passport and any other travel documents needed
  • all booking confirmation
  • airport and car park maps
  • travel insurance details
  • medication and doctor's letters
  • manuals for your wheelchair
  • phone numbers for your airline and special assistance desk
  • shoes that are easy to take on and off for security
  • apps or music to help with anxiety
  • a phrasebook or letter explaining your condition in the local language

What to do if things go wrong

It can be stressful when things go wrong that are out of your control, like:

  • long waits

  • delayed flights

  • problems with booked assistance

  • lost or damaged luggage and equipment

Try not to panic and explain your concern to a member of staff. You can also call the airport or airline helpline for advice and support.

Complaining to the airline

Follow the airline or airport complaint procedure if you’re unhappy with the support you receive or have any problems with damaged or lost luggage or equipment.

Contact your insurance provider if your travel insurance policy covers your equipment.

The Civil Aviation Authority website provides a directory of airline websites. This links to information on their special assistance services. You can make a complaint through the airline website or by phone or post if they provide those options.

Find your airline's special assistance contact details (Civil Aviation Authority)

Aviation Alternative Dispute Resolution (Aviation ADR)

To complain about many major airlines, you can:

  • use the online form

  • download and print a complaint form

  • copy the required information and send by post 

Make a complaint online (Aviation ADR)

Complaining to the Civil Aviation Authority

If your airline is not a member of an alternative dispute resolution organisation (like British Airways and Ryanair), you can complain directly to the Civil Aviation Authority or take legal action.

How the CAA can help (Civil Aviation Authority)

Taking your airline to court (Civil Aviation Authority)

Check if you can get legal aid (GOV.UK)


Several UK airports, including Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester and Bristol, plus British Airways, are members of Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR). You can:

Last reviewed by Scope on: 07/09/2021

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