Travel by plane

When traveling by plane, there are a few points to consider when you start planning your trip:

For people who, like me, previously planned and booked trips without a travel agency, I recommend always booking through a travel agency in the new situation. This means you have someone to contact if anything goes wrong along the way. It is also better guaranteed that all service providers take the requirements of the electric wheelchair into account. However, if something doesn't fit, you have the travel agency in the background who can resolve the necessary circumstances in one way or another (organizational or financial).

If possible, you should book the first row of seats after the toilets, as these offer a lot of legroom. This additional space is extremely valuable, as the supporting people can offer significantly better and more pleasant assistance in all situations, especially when transferring or going to the toilet.

You should avoid rows of seats with a wall at the back, as their backrests often have limited recline.

In my opinion, the aisle seat is the best because it allows for the easiest transfer and also allows the legs to be stretched at least temporarily.

If you have special requirements when it comes to food, at least the well-known airlines have a small selection of options to choose from. These may incur an additional charge. These options can be selected after booking the flight on the airline's website or you can clarify this with the travel agency when booking.

Prior to travel

Good preparation for this is recommended:

  • How and where is the motor decoupled so that the wheelchair can be pushed by hand?

  • How and where are the batteries disconnected and the circuit interrupted?
  • Have I requested/received an IATA certificate (Aviation Safety Certificate) from the manufacturer for my electric wheelchair? Without this, obtaining the necessary safety credentials can become a nightmare.

This information must be shown to airport staff so that staff can correctly load the power wheelchair in compliance with safety regulations.

  • The IATA certificate is usually requested by the airline/travel agency when or shortly after booking the flight.

  • A data sheet with the most important information about the wheelchairs can be helpful for the travel agency when planning.

  • The airlines have a specific form if assistance is necessary: ​​Special Assistance Form SAF according to IATA guidelines. It may be helpful for the travel agency to have this form completed and available. If medical equipment such as oxygen etc. is necessary during the flight, this form is mandatory. In this case, the doctor must confirm that you are fit to travel on the form. Since this will certainly take a little time, you should contact your doctor early. The form can usually be found on the airline’s website by entering “Special Assistance” in the search. This way you can also find airline-specific information about traveling with a wheelchair.

You can transport 2 wheelchairs free of charge per person in a wheelchair, 1x electric and 1x manual.


To save space and weight in my luggage, I attached the charger for the electric wheelchair and spare wheels from the hand wheelchair in a robust bag to the electric wheelchair.

Since the staff are not particularly careful with the wheelchair when loading and unloading, I would pay attention to the following points:

  • Fold the headrest as far as possible

  • Remove all protruding controls (buttons, display, etc.) and pack them up or fold them up and cover them so that they have a minimum of protection against impacts.

  • I would surround the control unit with the joystick with a bag and tie it tightly. On my first flight, the joystick attachment was missing after landing - although it's good hand training to control without an attachment, it's not really recommended. Another option would be to take a replacement with you.

  • I would move the head control, which is attached to the side in a small bag, to the side of the seat or protect it very well against impacts.

  • In the attached bag I would only store the charger and the operating instructions, possibly spare parts such as spare wheels from the hand wheelchair, for the flight (theft).

  • I put a clear label on the inside of both armrests of the manual wheelchair: “Private Property of Dennis Schneider”. I have had this since my first voyage as the staff had put my hand wheelchair in their own storage.

  • I would take everything out of the back pocket of the hand wheelchair for the trip, as these things get “lost” in one way or another along the entire transport route.

At the airport

You should definitely allow an additional 30 minutes for checking in with an electric wheelchair.

The electric wheelchair will be checked in at check-in. There are special counters for this in a few airports. For example at Kloten Airport, in the “Check-in 1” terminal, opposite the Business/First counter.

The airport often offers a wheelchair for the time until boarding so that the private hand wheelchair can be loaded straight away. I strongly advise against it! The comfort is generally poor, and in certain countries it is catastrophic for our clinical picture.

The following two questions are usually asked at check-in and if not, you should address them yourself:

1. Do you need help getting on the plane?

There is a special wheelchair (a hand truck for people) that is narrow enough to use the aisle on the plane. If you can no longer walk yourself, this is needed. You sit on it, are strapped in and then taken to the seat. Depending on your needs, one or two people will support you or even lift you into the seat. How gently this transfer occurs varies greatly. That's why I recommend that you or someone accompanying you give input on how and where you can/should be held. The accompanying person may be able to help, as the staff, based on my previous experience, has little or no knowledge of how a person is transferred. Without instructions, this can sometimes reach the threshold of pain, as I once experienced myself.

2. Is assistance needed to get to the gate?

This is part of the free service of an airport.

Advantage: The wheelchair can be pushed by an airport employee, you get through security more directly and quickly and are accompanied directly to the right gate.

Disadvantage: Depending on the airport, you will be taken directly to the gate, regardless of the flight time, or you will be taken to a waiting area for people in need of help so that you can be picked up at a given time (you will be informed). So far these waiting areas have all had the character and ambience of a bus stop - so not that great. This waiting area can be left. However, it is recommended to be there approximately 30 minutes before the pickup time. I also recommend informing the employees responsible there and, if necessary, agreeing on a return time.

If you have registered for assistance when booking/check-in, you will be picked up and accompanied on all flights.

On longer flights, you should go to the toilet again or have a urine bag in use before boarding. If you have to go to the toilet on the flight, you need your own legs. Flight crew are not permitted to provide assistance with the toilet, feeding, or administering medication or injections.

When boarding, wheelchair users have priority, i.e. they board the aircraft at the same time as first class passengers and families with children, before general passengers. Therefore, it is better to be ready a little before the official boarding time so as not to miss this advantage. Normally you will be picked up and accompanied by an airport employee, for which you have agreed a specific time anyway.

When you arrive at your destination, you are the last to leave the plane as a wheelchair user. A manual wheelchair will be available when you leave the plane - ideally your own. If it is not your own hand wheelchair, it will be found at baggage claim. The electric wheelchair is usually at the sports luggage (bulky luggage) issue. In Asia I have also experienced that the electric wheelchair was actually brought over the baggage carousel or had to be searched for. The accompanying airport employee can be of valuable assistance here.

If you are only traveling with one companion, it can be a challenge to easily get your luggage through the airport to the means of transport with the additional hand wheelchair. Depending on the country, it may be worthwhile to compare the prices of a pure taxi service with the costs of a personal ride service. The personal transport service at the airport will accommodate you as much as possible in order to provide support at the earliest possible point. This ride service also offers significantly more assistance with luggage at the destination than a pure taxi service.