Can You Take an Electric Wheelchair on an Airplane?

If you rely on an electric wheelchair for mobility, you may wonder if you can take your wheelchair with you when flying on an airplane. The good news is that most airlines allow passengers to bring their electric wheelchairs on planes. 

However, there are some guidelines and considerations that you need to be aware of to ensure a smooth and hassle-free travel experience. Learn more below! 

Understanding Airline Policies and Accessibility 

Before booking your flight, contact the airline or airport to inquire about their specific accessibility policies. Each airline may have slightly different guidelines, so it’s important to be well-informed before your trip. 

Types of Wheelchairs Allowed on Planes

Manual Wheelchairs

Manual wheelchairs are generally welcome on planes. Airlines must provide storage space for collapsible, folding, or break-down manual wheelchairs in the aircraft cabin. This space is typically in a wheelchair closet and must meet specific size requirements. 

However, if your manual wheelchair has a rigid frame and cannot fit in the onboard wheelchair closet, it’ll need to be stored in the cargo hold. Removing all detachable parts, such as footrests, cup holders, and seat cushions, and keeping them in the aircraft cabin is recommended. 

Power Wheelchairs

Power wheelchairs, on the other hand, aren’t allowed in the passenger cabin of an airplane. They’re usually too heavy or wide to navigate through the narrow aisles. That said, airlines are required to provide alternative mobility options for passengers with power wheelchairs. 

When you arrive at the gate at the airport, the airline will offer you an aisle manual chair. This chair will serve as your means of mobility onto the plane, from the gate to your seat, and for use on the plane. Your power wheelchair will be stowed in the cargo compartment of the aircraft. 

Boarding and Disembarking Process

Passengers with wheelchairs can board and disembark the airplane before other passengers

Your power wheelchair will be returned to you as close to the plane’s door as possible, either at the jet bridge or the gate. It should be fully assembled and in the same condition as when you checked it before the flight. 

9 Tips for Flying with an Electric Wheelchair

Flying with an electric wheelchair can be new and different, but planning ahead can make it easier. Here are some tips: 

  1. Contact the airline: Before your flight, contact the airline to verify your reservation and ask about their specific wheelchair policy. This will help you understand any additional requirements or procedures you must follow. 

  2. Arrive early: Arrive at the airport at least 2-3 hours before your scheduled flight to allow enough time for check-in, security clearance, and wheelchair drop-off. 

  3. Document your wheelchair: Take a picture of your electric wheelchair before boarding the flight. This will serve as proof of its condition in case you need to file a damage claim. 

  4. Choose the right seat: When selecting a seat, choose an aisle seat closest to the front of the plane. This will make it easier for you to transfer from the chair to your seat. 

  5. Direct flights: Whenever possible, book direct flights to minimize the need for multiple transfers and reduce the chances of mishandling or damaging your wheelchair. 

  6. Keep important documents handy: Carry your wheelchair’s owner manual and any necessary documentation, such as proof of FAA-approved batteries, with you during your journey. 

  7. Communicate your needs: Inform the airline and flight attendants about any assistance you need during the flight. 

  8. Baggage claim: When it’s time to collect your baggage at the destination, ensure that the airline assists you in carrying your gate-checked or carry-on luggage if needed. 

  9. Complaint resolution official: If you have any airline accommodations or service issues, you can ask to speak with the airline’s Complaint Resolution Official (CRO) or a supervisor. They’re trained to handle disability-related concerns and resolve complaints on behalf of the airline. 

Electric Wheelchair FAQs

Are There Extra Charges for Wheelchairs?

No, airlines don’t typically charge extra fees for transporting your wheelchair. In fact, they must accommodate passengers with disabilities and their mobility devices without additional charges. However, confirming with the airline beforehand is always a good idea to ensure no unexpected fees. 

What Types of Wheelchair Batteries Are Accepted?

Airlines typically accept FAA-approved batteries for electric wheelchairs. These batteries are often gel or dry batteries that contain non-spillable lithium. 

Contact Our Experienced California Mobility Providers Today! 

Our team of RESNA-certified experts can help you find the best complex rehab equipment for your needs anywhere in California. We can help with everything from wheelchair repairs to choosing the right technology. 

Contact us today for a FREE consultation!