Tips for travellers with a disability

People with a disability often experience problems when travelling. However, in many cases these problems are not directly related to their disability, but rather discrimination. Some of the most common forms of discrimination are denied boarding, degrading treatment, poor assistance, additional charges to receive assistance and loss or damage to mobility equipment and assistive devices.

In 2008, the Disabled Air Passengers’ Rights Regulation was put in force by the European Union in order to prevent these forms of discrimination.

How has this law helped?

Wheelchair users often have problems which most travellers who do not use a wheelchair are unaware of. Up until only recently some airlines charged wheelchair users to take their wheelchair from check-in to the aircraft. Other airlines refused some wheelchair users to fly as they claimed there were too many disabled travellers on the flight. Thanks to the law, airlines can no longer make these excuses. In fact, most airlines offer very good services for disabled travellers and they are aware that wheelchair users need more space and an aisle seat aboard the aircraft, as well as ground and onboard assistance etc.

In other cases, blind travellers were unable to fly accompanied by their guide dog and were not entitled to any form of aid to get from check-in to the aircraft. Thankfully, this is no longer the case today.

These regulations have helped to make travelling a right for everyone. However, discrimination is something that will be difficult to eliminate completely. If you experience neglect and maltreatment at an airport you should make the relative authorities aware.

Many travellers share their experiences online and so this also may be helpful for you. It is an excellent way of helping you decide which airline to choose and may give you more information about the help available for passengers with reduced mobility, a visual impairment or some other form of disability. All these comments are written by people who have tried and tested the services. They write based on their experiences and so all feedback and comments about the airport facilities or the airlines are unbiased.

Have you experienced travelling with a disability? Share that experience with others by leaving a comment below!

What do you think of airline services and airport facilities for disabled travellers? What problems do disabled travellers experience? Poor airport and aircraft facilities? Degrading personnel? Or perhaps problems with other intolerant passengers? Write about your travel experiences and give advice to other disabled travellers.

Read more about disabled travellers’ experiences and write your comments below:

COMMENTS AIRLINES AND ROUTES:

Airline Bangkok Airways  Flight Bangkok – Koh Samui

I am very disabled. the service was excellent. I checked in very quickly was alloctaed a wheelchair and helped all the waythrough to the aircraft. brilliant service, the best service i have ever had from an Airline. i was also looked after in Koh Samui. Thank you very much for a great journey.

Airline LUFTHANSA  Flight London – Frankfurt

As my wife require assistance we reported at the nearest site in Terminal 1, Heathrow Airport. Here we had some difficulties to get the necessary assistance as the officer was of the opinion that we should walk ourselves th the Lufthansa counter (app. 300 meters), which would be completely impossible for my wife (she can walk about 10 – 15 meters

Airline Olympic Air   Flight Thessaloniki – London 

Had booked disabled assistance for arrival at Gatwick, but was told service supplier had no knowledge, although it was booked earlier in week before travel, and throughout journey Olympic staff new of requirement. Consequently had to wait nearly 30 mins for assistance to move us from aircraft.

Airline: TAP Flight London- Funchal

Although I only book for my self I was traveling with both my elderly parents. Having asked for disabled assistance. they were repeatedly asked if they needed it (they do not want it but do need it at one point I had to go back and say please tell dad he is having a chair)

Airline Ryanair: Flight London- Valenica

I am an old woman and your airlines did not offer me any assistance, I had to wait like any other person on the line for boarding . When asked they said they did not have any one available at the moment to help . Very poor service and not very fair.

Airline Ryanair: Flight London- Malta

My father in-law is in a wheelchair. The way that he was treated on board I almost got the impression that they would prefer not to take disabled passengers

Airline easyJet: Flight Malta – London

My father in-law is in a wheelchair. The attention and assistance that he received from ground crew and cabin crew was excellent.

Airline easyJet: Flight London, Gatwick – Bordeaux, Mérignac

As we required wheelchairs our check in and boarding went smoothly – but all the able bodied passengers faced horrendous queues. The two hour delay made our stay at Gatwick seem extremely long after check-in.

Airline British Airways Flight Toulouse – London

Damage to brand new disability walker.
Luggage handling: 3 day old disability walker was damaged after check in. We flew British Airways from CPH to LHR to TLS one week earlier, and a 3 month old disability walker that had been carried by Qantas from DRW to LHR and from LGW to CPH and from CPH to LGW with no damage at all was very badly damaged on the British Airways flight. For that reason, I will seek never to fly with BA again if there are alternatives.

Airline easyJet Flight London – Edinburgh

My husband was not able to walk when we left London. Easy Jet provided excellent wheel chair assistance and a lift to get him to a bulk head seat which they reserved for us. Check in lines were impossibly long at Gatwick and, for a fee (about 12 BP each) we opted for an speedy check in (going to the head of the line). The staff at London getting on the plane (which was two hours late in leaving) and at the Edinburgh end really excellent.

Airline BRUSSELS AIRLINES Flight Tel Aviv – Birmingham

CheckIn: Everything was OK except that although we had requested weelchair assistance in Tel Aviv we had to wait for over one hour. I think that you should speak to “Laufer” to make sure that there is liason between your check in and Laufer

Airline: Air Europa Flight Palma de Mallorca – Sevilla

Comments/suggestions about check in and boarding: I asked for a wheel chair as my leg was in a plaster cast and I had to use crutches. Customer service was excellent at check in and boarding when I requested this. It arrived quickly and they even organised a wheelchair for me on arrival at Seville airport

Airline: RYANAIR  Flight London- Shannon

CheckIn: The queues at the baggage check in are long because of excess wait problems. Would a wheight per person be better, however many bags you have to check in? The staff were dismissive, it would be nice to have a person on duty to help passengers with problems. Disabled should have free priority boarding with a carer.

Airline: TAP Flight Lisbon- Barcelona

I travelled with my mother in a wheelchair. Due to the flight delay, and possibly to some miscommunication between TAP check-in counter and airport caddy (people who assist wheelchair passengers‘ boarding), the aisle chair was not arranged in a timely manner and my mother had to board in the very last after all other passengers were seated, which was not very comfortable. However, we received excellent service/assistance from an airport caddy staff, which made us overall satisfied with boarding process.

Airline: Aeromexico Flight Mexico City – Paris

Aircraft arrival in Paris..steep metal steps..to bus with high entrance..impossible….passengers assisted me onto bus..in Paris terminal roughly told to go up to AirFrance for wheelchair ordered…AirFrance personnel finally assisted me by lift to desk..where they did a fantastic job of getting me thru to checkout.

CheckIn: Except availability of wheelchair.…otherwise very good…I travel this flight several times a year. Had to make several calls to make sure a wheelchair was confirmed…also info for upgrades with Premier points sketchy and unsure.

Airline: easyJet Flight Bordeaux – London

The new Billi section of Bordeaux Merignac Airport could do more for wheelchair users. I arrived and checked in two hours before the flight and was wheeled to corner of the seating area in the check-in hall as there was insufficient seating if I went into the departure hall. The flight was delayed 1and a half hours but this was not announced on any speaker system but it meant that I sat in a corner of a huge shed for 3 and a half hours before the flight. The flight was OK, the captain was charming and the stewards were fine – but a bit more attention to passenger care at the airport would be appreciated.

Airline: Aeroflot Flight Bangkok – Paris

Stopovers: Good help with wheelchair to next connecting flight The staff was very helpful as I had a knee accident and needed a wheelchair to get around!

Airline SWISS  Flight: Copenhague – Vienna

Stopovers: I’d ordered a wheelchair, which was not there. (There was an airline employee waiting at the gate with a wheelchair, and when I asked him if it was for me, he replied “No.”) Our flight arrived late and barely had enough time to get to the next flight. Our luggage did not follow.

Airline US AIRWAYS Flight Alicante – San Francisco

There was a pre-flight change in flights on return from Madrid to Alicante. As I was with wheelchair assistance important as when checking in for changed flight it did not show and claimed original flights was missed. After several calls etc it was rectified but should not have happened.

Incidents The stopover in Philadelphia was a problem. I had wheelchair assistance. On disembarking the female who was to collect me made comment as to why did I need assistance and was very rude the entire trip in chair to connecting flight. I feel this is something which should be addressed immediately.

 

Airline EASYJET Flight Nice – Paris

I’m in a wheelchair and had to use a special chair to board the aircraft. But we arrived in Paris they did not have a chair that was narrow enough to go between the seats. The man with that wheelchair had to lift me me up so I could transfer to the wheelchair. In doing so, my bottom hit the arm rest and I got a pressure sore as a result. I did not say anything because I was meeting my parents and they had just flown from India. I hope this does not happen again in the future.

Airline KLM  Flight Birmingham – Amsterdam

Incidents: The KLM Captain and crew were excellent. Birmingham Airport was not. On arrival at Birmingham, the aircraft was kept waiting before it could dock and the pilot had to be careful. As he said, “The guidance system had not been switched; so we had to wait for that, the lines showing where the aircraft should stop at the gate are wrong and a fuel tanker had been parked too close, forcing the aircraft to avoid hitting it with a wing.” We had to wait 10 minutes for the gate to be connected. An old lady on board had arranged for a wheelchair and helper; no wheelchair or helper were there. The KLM Purser went looking for this but no one came. No Birmingham Airport staff were in sight at all until we reached the Baggage Hall. The KLM Captain kept us informed throughout. The appalling luggage handling, which completely ignored KLM’s Priority Baggage labels, is referred to elsewhere.

Airline EASYJET  Flight Rome – London
Special assistance for my wife was good at Rom and on the flight – but lacking at gatwick which was not prepared – we had to wait for a wheelchair lift off the plane, and there was no-one to take her through passport control etc so I ended up doing it myself.

Surcharges comments: My wife needed wheelchair assistance by the time we reached Rome – very well provided and she was well looked after at Rome and on the plane

Airline Scandinavian Airlines Flight Helsinki – Dublin

Requested wheelchair – service was excellent and booked all the way to DUB via LHR. Pick-up was a very long walk from Hire Car Drop-off!
Airline EASYJET  Flight Newcastle – London

If someone needs a wheelchair to get to the plane, then it is probably needed to get from the plane to the building. Therefore it should be left at the aircraft steps, not loaded onto the baggage wagon, as mine was. We did get it off, but with a bit of a tussle .

Airline EASYJET  Flight London – Edinburgh

Only one ground staff member at boarding gate until well into check in. Issues of no transport for wheelchair user. Also area around gate very congested, limited seating, crowd safety issues. Gate 85 Stansted, intermingling with adjacent Ryanair flight queue.

Airline LUFTHANSA  Flight London – Milan

Checking personnel rude and arrogant “person at desk no. 10 from 10.20 am to 10.55 am”. Refused help. “Stated he did not care I was disabled” Threatened not to check me in”. Also Area K at Terminal One is unfriendly for disabled people.

Airline BRUSSELS AIRLINES Flight Brussels – London

Aircraft: Not that good for Disabled or Elderly passengers.

Airline RYANAIR  Flight Glasgow – Malaga

Prices a bit steep for tea etc.! Check-in staff very helpful, as my husband is disabled.

 COMMENTS AIRPORTS

Airport Incheon International(ICN)

I AM HANDICAPPED PERSON USING WHEELCHAIR PERMANENTLY.NO ACCESS TO BUS TRANSPORTATION TO THE CITY. NO ISLE (SMALL) CHAIR IN AIR CRAFTS

Airport Lisboa

There were no accessibilities for disabled people that had to walk through long corridors for reaching the point of presenting passports & collecting luggage. Ground personnel did not liaise with aircraft crew and the result was a long waiting time before we were allowed to proceed. Toilets at the airport were not clean. Too much time waiting for our luggage. General information about Portugal that could be presented on the screens was non existant.

Airport Liverpool – John Lennon

It was raining upon arrival, I am dissabled and as a result need to walk slowly, I needed to walk the entire distance unaided c/w hand baggage, approx 100 yds.Liverpool airport and Easyjet staff only care about wheelchair users. My bag was the last one unloaded, When I went to Baggage reclaim the attendant told me that she did niot work for easyjet and that I would have to wait, no one came and after half an hour my bag appeared on the carosel. I missed my connection. My travelling day had started at 6.00am and I finally got home at 11.30pm.

Airport Brussels

A long walk to the Terminal for the flight. No problem for me, but could be for a handicapped person;

Airport Fuhlsbüttel Hamburg

“Hervorragender Service, freundliche Behandlung, Hilfestellung bei Behinderung” transl.: excellent service, kind staff, assistence for people with disability

Airport London Heathrow

Hasn’t changed a bit. It’s a nightmare for the handicapped; moronic wheelchair pushers, bathrooms uncleaned…

Airport Copenhagen International Airport (CPH)

Reviews of services: Fine wheelchair assistance

Airport Barcelona El Prat (BCN)

Reviews of services: Fine wheelchair service

Fine service as handicapped

Airport Malaga (AGP)

Dirty, unhealthy public convenance, hardly any disabled amenities, treated like a imboceal, spoken to rudely, left VERY UPSET

Airport London Gatwick

We arrived in Gatwick after a 91/2 hr. flight from Aruba. The airplane stance was approx. 3/4 to 1 mile from arrivals. My partner is disabled and the walk absolutely exhausted him. We had a 4 hr. wait for our place to Inverness and belive me we needed every minute. By the time we got our luggage and made our way to the departure lounge it was 8.30a.m. We were advised that the check-in did not open until 10.10am, so we went for a cup of tea and made our way down at 9.30am, to be met with a queue which spiraled in and out and half way down the hall. It was chaotic to say the least with stqaff shouting for passengers to leave the queue to check-in as they would lose their flight. We arrived in Inverness thoroughly exhausted.

(Pages are regularly updated)

16 Responses

  1. Michael Bentley

    I travelled with Singapore Airlines and they broke my walking stick and damaged my disability scooter, they compensated me for the walking stick but refused to compensate me for my scooter (less that $200.00) I also had to spend the day at Singapore airport terminal because they could not find the scooter, if I had known I would not have had and paid for a stopover. Every time I fly now I let them know when and with who I fly so that they can see the money they lose, I have now flown 61 times and will make another 6 international flights between August and October. Think twice before you fly with Singapore Airlines if you are disabled.

    Reply
  2. Christophe Carlier

    Thank you for sharing these tips for travelers with a disability. My grandpa is in a wheel chair but still would like to travel and I am wondering how things can work out for him. It is true that there is discrimination toward people with disabilities. They are denied boarding, treated poorly and receive additional charges. Some flights even deny people in wheelchairs! I think it depends on what company you are with but there shouldn’t be discrimination to people with disabilities who would like to travel. Thank you!

    Reply
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  4. Dr Peter Ferrer

    n Air arrangements at Stansted excellent. Sadly very hit and miss at Fez Morocco for return to London. We did not know what was happening my carer speaks fluent Moroccan and even he could not find the wheelchair pusher.

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  6. agd

    While travelling thru LHR with a suitcase full of temperature sensitive IV medication, my husband was treated terribly. First the increased scrutiny of him physically. Then they told him he could only carry on 24 hours worth of the IV medication. They required that we REPACK our carry-ons and go check the bag with the IV mediation with the airlines. This required me to RUN to the airline counter and work with them to care appropriately for the medication. By the way, that airline was Alitalia, and they were AMAZING. They actually put the bag in the cabin with the flight attendants’ bags. After checking that bag, I had to RUN back to security. The man/supervisor was so VICIOUS, that when other workers saw that I was crying over the situation and they tried to help me by putting me in a different line, he then threatened to ground me and not let us catch our flight. We almost missed the boarding time as it was. LHR treats people with disabilities deplorably.

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