Travel is my second name. I travel over 125,000 miles a year and the most common way is on an airplane. Airplane travel does not have to be daunting if you have a few good tips to guide you on the way. For those of us who cannot walk, or have a difficult time walking, all airports around the world have something called an aisle chair for our convenience. An aisle chair is a very narrow chair used to transfer into at the base of the stairs, or at bottom of the jet way prior to boarding a plane. The aisle chair will usually have at least three seat belts; two crossing over your chest, while the third will come across your lower thighs to help hold your legs in place.
Once seat-belted in the aisle chair, there will usually be two attendants to help either get you up the stairs, or through the door of the plane. Inside, they will pull you backwards down the airplane aisle to your assigned seat. These attendants are trained and if need be, can help you transfer with either partial or full assistance.
After being escorted to your assigned seat in the plane, you will now transfer over to the seat. On most planes, the aisle armrest will have a hidden button underneath them, so as to be able to raise the armrest. The bulkhead and first class seats of most airplanes do not have this button. Raising the arm rest makes the transfer much easier as you will not have to transfer over it.
This process is all done during the pre-boarding phase of boarding. Wheelchair users are the first people boarded on the plane and the last ones off upon landing. With this being said, I prefer to sit in a window seat over an aisle seat. Since we are in our seats as the rest of the passenger’s board and disembark, if in an aisle seat, the two people sitting in our row must now climb over us to get in and out of their seat. This can sometimes be a challenge for our seat mates. Hence, my window seat preference.
Most USA flights will have an on-board aisle chair that stays on the plane at all times. You can use this with the help of the flight attendants while up in the air (when the fasten seat belt sign is off) to be brought to the lavatory.
You might wonder what happens with our wheelchairs or mobility devices on the plane. In most cases, they are gate checked, tagged, and taken to the underneath compartment on the plane after you transfer. They are then brought out to the front of the plane once you land. In some cases, if there is room and the device is small enough, it can be put into the first class closet.
Flying is a great way to travel. My suggestion for anyone traveling that will need to use an aisle chair is to be patient with the attendants who are there to help you. Do not be afraid to tell them exactly what kind of help you need or don't need. Make sure you have plenty of your medical supplies with you as you board the plane. With proper planning and knowledge, you can book your next flight with no fear.
The opinions and experiences presented herein are for informational use only. Individual results may vary depending on your condition. Always consult with your health care professional. This individual has been compensated by Bard Medical for the time and effort in preparing this article for BARD’s further use and distribution. BMD/BMDA/1015/0057