Information about special assistance from airlines and airports
Guidance for passengers requiring extra help due to their age, or for illness or injury, or for those passengers who have disabilities including sensory, learning, psychiatric or mobility disabilities.
If you need extra help in the airport, or on the aircraft because of a sensory, learning, psychiatric or mobility disability, you have the right to it. This help is also available to those people who require extra help due to their age, or due to a temporary illness or injury e.g. a broken leg in a cast.
In order to get the best level of assistance, you will need to let your booking agent, tour operator or airline know about your need for assistance at least 48 hours before travel. Check with the airline you are looking to travel with about when you need to let them know of your requirements. Better still, why not let them know at the time of booking.
It may be that it is a requirement of the airline that you advise them online at the time of booking that you require special assistance. As you might need a medical certificate from your Doctor to advise the airline that are fit to fly. Do check the requirements of the airline.
It is important to let your booking agent, tour operator or airline know about your need for assistance in order to get the best possible service. However, even if you don’t pre-advise, the airports and airlines are required to make all reasonable efforts to help.
The type of mobility assistance you may receive at the airport may be:
If you require assistance boarding the aircraft, depending on which airline you are travelling with, you may be boarded before all the passengers or after all the passengers. Check with your airline if this of importance to you.
Also, if you are disabled, might be able to benefit from cheaper parking at the airport. Check with the airport before booking.
The Meru TravelChair is a unique child restraint device that fits into a standard aircraft seat and gives postural support for disabled children who would otherwise be unable to travel by air. The Meru TravelChair has now received a European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) aircraft change approval for use onboard aircraft.
Some airlines will provide these devices on board the aircraft or they can be brought on board by the passenger.
See the Meru website for more information.
If you have a battery-powered wheelchair or mobility aid which you wish to take on the aircraft, you need to contact your airline to let them know. This is because battery-powered devices can be a fire risk onboard aircraft, so the airline needs to pass on to the airport the instructions for making the device safe for carriage.
It shouldn’t cost you anything if you want to take your mobility aid with you. Some airlines let you take more than one, provided that you give them plenty of advance notice.
Here are some things to remember when booking your flight or holiday:
If your wheelchair has a gel cushion for extra protection and comfort, you may wish to use that cushion during flight. You should be aware that this will be subject to security clearance due to security issues on taking gels and liquids onboard aircraft. Your cushion will be scanned or screened. However, your passage through the airport and onto the plane will be made as straightforward as possible if you notify the airline in advance that you wish to use the cushion on board.
Be aware that you may need to take a travelling companion if you need personal care (for example in using the toilet or eating). You may also need to take a travelling companion, if you are unable to carry out safety requirements unaided such as using the seat-belt, fitting an oxygen mask in an emergency situation or reaching an emergency exit unaided.
You travelling companion will need to buy their own ticket. However, as long as you let your booking agent, tour operator or airline know about your need for assistance at least 48 hours before travel, the airline should make all reasonable efforts to ensure that you and your companion can sit next to each other.
You have the right to travel with your assistance dog. Any other animal will typically be treated as a pet and other arrangements must be made for its carriage. Due to the intense training that guide dogs and assistance dogs receive and the fact that they are selected for their temperament, it is unlikely that such a dog would be adversely affected by a cabin emergency to such an extent that the safety of other passengers would be compromised.
An assistance dog will need to comply with the rules of the Pet Travel Scheme, run by DEFRA.
The general rule is that airlines must not refuse to accept a reservation or to carry a passenger on the grounds of disability or reduced mobility. However, an airline may refuse to honour your reservation or allow you to board the aircraft if:
The European law that gives you these rights applies to a journey that departs from, transits through, or arrives at an airport in a European country if on a European airline. (European in this sense means all EU Member States plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.)
There is no right to immediate compensation if the airline or airport does not provide you with extra assistance.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has produced guidance on travelling by air if you have a disability.
There is more information on direct.gov.uk about travelling by air if you are disabled.