What happens at the airport?

Since July 2008, airports within the European Community have legal responsibility to provide travel assistance services to people with reduced mobility, free of charge. You can read loads more information about your rights as a passenger, here.

Airport Assistance

To book assistance, contact your airline, tour operator or travel agent a minimum of 48 hours before your departure. It is best to do this at the time you’re booking your holiday. Different people have different needs. So, it’s important that you also select the level that suits you, when you book. For instance, one person may require assistance from check in right through to take off. Another person may just need assistance to board the aircraft.


Wheelchair users at the airport

If you or a travel companion are a wheelchair user and cannot walk, you will be transferred to an aisle chair to board the aircraft. This allows you to be moved down the aircraft aisle to your seat. There is also a facility to strap you onto this chair if your balance is limited. Although airport staff are trained in lifting, they may not have knowledge of spinal cord injury and associated issues. It is therefore important to communicate any particular requirements you have to them.

If there are steps up to the door of the aircraft, you will have to access the aircraft through an ambi-lift. A special type of vehicle, it will help you into the door on the other side of the aircraft to which everyone else is boarding.

Further information on travelling through Dublin Airport with reduced mobility, can be found here.

What will happen to my wheelchair while flying?

When you are transferred by the aisle chair onto the aircraft, your wheelchair will be stored in the hold of the plane with the luggage. Your wheelchair should be on the ground (if exiting by steps) or outside the door (if exiting by air tunnel) when you disembark the aircraft.

Flying with Battery-Powered Wheelchairs

Airlines may differ in the way they transport powered wheelchairs. The majority of battery-powered wheelchairs may not need to be disassembled but must be switched off. Airport staff may ask for direction on this, so you should try to have a copy of the wheelchair instruction manual/booklet to help them. It is important to be in contact with the airline well before travelling, to confirm the type of battery your wheelchair has and what the requirements of the airline are.

Flying with a Ventilator

If you are travelling with electronic medical equipment, such as a ventilator, contact the airline as early as possible to discuss your needs. The airline may require further information such as the  serial number or the type of battery. The ventilator should go on as hand luggage.


If you are traveling on a long haul, you may want to consider taking two ventilators, in case there is a problem with one of them. The spare ventilator can be placed under the seat in front of you. Whatever process is involved, it is important that you are in contact with your airline well before you fly.

What about my wheelchair cushion?

Take your wheelchair cushion with you onto the plane and don’t leave it on the chair. If you don’t take it with you, it will go into the hold and may become separated from your wheelchair. Some people leave their cushion securely fastened to the wheelchair and take a second, more suitable cushion on board the aircraft.

The seat cushion on the aircraft seat is a held in by Velcro, so it is possible to remove and replace with your pressure relieving cushion.

This means that you are able to sit on your own cushion and still be at a comfortable height in the aircraft seat.

Please note that certain cushions may need to be deflated, for guidance please contact your local wheelchair services. Roho cushions will need the air pressure adjusted due to the cabin pressure at high altitude. Air will need to be removed as the plane reaches high altitude and re-inflated on arrival.

What about using the toilet on the plane?

It is not normally possible to access the toilet during either a long or short haul flight. However, the majority of toilets on planes, whether they have a disabled symbol on the door or not, are small and only have room for one person (the user). The airline doesn’t usually carry an aisle chair for you to use to get to the toilet. So, if you are on a long haul flight, consider attaching a night bag that can be concealed inside a carrier bag and placed under your seat.

You should also try to organise your bowel routine around your flight. Make sure you’ve been to the toilet before you board to drain your catheter. Sometimes it can take longer to board than expected, so it’s best to go just beforehand. It’s also worth checking that there will be an aisle chair on the plane too, should you need it.

Please note that the cabin staff are unfortunately unlikely to be prepared to dispose of urine for you. Your individual requirements for your personal care should be carefully thought through before travelling.

Can I bring my medication on the aircraft with me?

Yes, even if your medication is in fluid form, you can carry it onto the aircraft with you. Its contents should be clearly labelled and preferably in original packaging. Take enough with you to last a couple of days in case your luggage gets delayed. It is helpful to have a medical cert or doctor’s letter certifying that you are taking prescribed medication, in case of any problems in customs. It is also a good idea to take a copy of your prescription with you in your hand luggage, in case your medication and you part company.

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