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Travel with disabilities: plan ahead

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Traveling with disabilities can be a challenge but by planning ahead many of these challenges can be addressed and overcome. Whenever possible, plan and book flights well in advance and inform travel agents and airline representatives of the following:

  • Type of disability and equipment aids such as canes, crutches or wheelchairs (manual or power).
  • Special dietary requirements or need for assistance at meals (airline personnel are not permitted to assist with eating, but should assist with opening packages and identifying food items on a meal tray).
  • Whether another person will accompany the disabled traveler.
  • Call the airline directly to ensure that all disability-related needs will be met. Ask for the name and position of each person you speak with and record this information.
  • Make arrangements for travel to and from airports. Many U.S. companies like taxis and airport shuttles offer this service free of charge. Make these arrangements well in advance along with your flight arrangements to avoid frustration upon arrival and departure.
  • European facilities have call buttons or telephones at designated points to enable you to communicate your arrival at the airport and ask for assistance both outside and inside the terminal building.
  • Arrive at the airport one hour earlier than normally advised. This will allow time for accommodations to be made and avoid delays.
  • You may want to consider varying the lengths of your flights depending on disability-related needs. Long flights may be uncomfortable, especially for people who cannot use inaccessible airplane toilets. Shorter connecting flights may be a better alternative.

  • Allow at least 90 minutes between connecting flights (or longer if required to pass through immigration and customs during a layover) in order to ensure enough time to transfer between gates.
  • Air carriers must provide enplaning and deplaning assistance requested by passengers with disabilities, including assistance beyond the screener checkpoints, and between connecting gates, but have discretion in how this assistance is provided. You may also request that an unticketed individual assist you through security to your boarding gate, but individuals who wish to assist passengers with disabilities beyond the screener checkpoint will be required to present themselves at the airline’s check-in desk and receive a „pass“ allowing them to go through the screener checkpoint without a ticket.
  • Carry personal supplies such as medications (in original containers with prescription), eyeglasses, hearing aid equipment, or other such essentials in your carry-on bag.


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