Traveling on an Airplane with a Wheelchair is incredibly inaccessible and impossible for the millions of the people around the world who use a Wheelchair.
Many do not even fly because of bad experiences and stories they have heard from others. Wheelchairs get damaged constantly and even sent to the wrong airport and Airlines spend millions every year repairing them.
If you look at the video below, you can see how a baggage handler has to bring a Wheelchair around the plane from the gate and physically lift it up with 3 other people. An Electric Wheelchair weights atleast 300 pounds, costs atleast $20,000 depending on the model, and is only covered under Medicaid or Insurance every 5 years.
While your Electric Wheelchair gets carried into the cargo hold and you are terrified if it gets damaged, you have to get into a transfer wheelchair at the gate. These transfer wheelchairs are incredibly uncomfortable, don’t have a headrest, don’t have a prescription gel cushion, and don’t have lateral restraints. You have to be wheeled onto the plane by the flight attendants.
Cory Lee from the Disability Travel Blog Curb Free With Cory Lee took the following video with a camera on his head showing how inaccessible it is getting on an Airplane as a Wheelchair User.
Once you finally get into your seat, you have to sit on a regular cushion (although you can bring your gel cushion) and without lateral restraints for the entire flight. If you have a neuromuscular disease like Muscular Dystrophy, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, or ALS that leaves you with limited strength, you will need someone sitting next to you to help hold you up during takeoff, turbulence, and landing.
When the plane finally lands, you have to wait for everybody to get off the plane, your wheelchair to be brought to the gate, and for the flight attendants to get the transfer wheelchair to bring you to the gate where your wheelchair will be hopefully unharmed.
We have a traveling on an airplane with a wheelchair guide if you want to learn more about what you can do.
We have a solution to this awful problem though. Imagine if you could get onto the plane in your electric wheelchair and stay in it for the entire flight.
If an airline has ever damaged your wheelchair or discriminated against you based on your disability, please file a formal complaint with the Department of Transportation. Airlines need to know whenever they are not servicing the Disabled Community properly. The Department of Transportation has a formal complaint system where all complaints are investigated and reports covering the entire airline industry are published every year. The Airlines and DOT need to know what they are doing wrong and what can be addressed.
If you need supplemental oxygen the National Council on Aging has a guide on traveling safely with portable oxygen that has safety tips for using and carrying oxygen in each mode of transportation and a complete list of oxygen policies for each specific major air, bus, train, and cruise lines.