This will depend on the level of assistance you have requested in advance of travel. However, you should head to the check-in desk as normal and reiterate your needs to airline staff.
Check-in may take a little longer, as the airline will confirm you have been allocated the correct seat and check in your wheelchair along with any luggage. It is likely that you will be travelling in your own wheelchair and you should make this clear at the desk.
Getting your wheelchair tagged
The airline will tag your wheelchair in the same way they do your luggage and provide you with a sticker for your ticket which corresponds to the tag on your wheelchair.
Ideally, the airline will also tag your chair with a small placard indicating that it should be brought from the hold to the plane door immediately upon arrival. If they do not do this, or if they are unable to do so, ensure they know this needs to occur.
You do not want to be sitting in a wheelchair that is not tailored to your needs any longer than necessary, as this can cause discomfort and/or skin breakdowns.
Choosing your level of assistance
You can request assistance from the moment you have checked in, going all the way through security and up to the gate. Or, you may prefer to have assistance meet you at the gate just prior to boarding.
Your preference may depend on the size of the airport, as assistance can be beneficial if there are long connection tunnels between terminals or during peak seasons when the queues are long. This will have been booked with the airline in advance of travel but, as this service is delivered by airport subcontractors, the communication between the two can be poor.
As such, it’s advisable to visit the special assistance desk after check-in, to reiterate your needs and from which point you will require assistance.
Clarifying if you require to be lifted
Likewise, you should also clarify at this stage if you will require to be lifted.
This is so they will assign two people to your gate and avoid any potential delays. For health and safety reasons, the assistance companies don’t tend to assign just one person when lifting and may not allow friends, family or carers to help, as this may void their insurance.
Keeping your wheelchair until you embark
You will find that some airlines are better than others. Most will allow you to keep your wheelchair with you until you need to embark on the plane. If they do not, stand your ground and explain why this is important to you.
Many airport wheelchairs are not self-propelling and if this is what they are offering, explain why this is unsuitable for you to sit in for two hours prior to boarding.
Having a letter from your doctor
It is often helpful to have a letter from your doctor or consultant explaining your medical condition and any medical needs you may have.
If you need to have an indwelling catheter or carry syringes, you should ensure a letter sets this out. This will assist when passing through security and in the event you or your hand luggage is searched.
As all wheelchair users need to be frisked by security, you should advise them of your medical needs. If there are language barriers, try simple words such as ‘medical’ when pointing to your leg to help explain the catheter and leg bag.