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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Travelling by air for disabled people – before you go

If you're disabled or a person with reduced mobility (PRM), you must let airline staff know your needs at least 48 hours before you travel. This help the airline plan for the help you’ll need. Find out about planning your journey, taking equipment and medical forms to complete.

Letting the airline know your needs

Planning what assistance or services you’ll need will make your journey easier. It’s important to let the airline know of your needs at least 48 hours before you travel. This way, the airline can plan ahead and provide you with the service assistance you need at the airport. However, if no notification is given, airports are required to make all reasonable efforts to provide assistance.

Ideally, you should ask for any assistance or services when making your travel booking and complete the ABTA checklist for disabled people (follow link below). This will help airlines and airports to provide any service assistance you require for your journey. If you have pre-booked assistance  then you should ask for this to be written on your ticket or itinerary.

Airline cabin crew do not provide personal care and may require you to travel with a companion if you are unable to look after yourself. You may be able to get a reduced fare for extra seating if it is needed because of your disability or for a travel companion. See ‘Airport and airline services for disabled travellers’ to find out more.

Taking mobility equipment with you

Most airlines will carry up to two items of mobility equipment free of charge. Larger items such as wheelchairs have to be 'checked in' along with your luggage and put into the aircraft's hold. It would be useful to inform the airline of the weight of the wheelchair as different airlines have different policies on wheelchair weight limitations. Smaller items such a walking canes can be taken into the cabin with you. See ‘Air travel if you are mobility impaired’.

Medical oxygen

Some airlines will provide emergency medical oxygen free of charge. Others make a charge. A very small number of airlines will allow you to take your own oxygen cylinder equipment on board. Although some airlines allow the carriage of portable oxygen concentrators (POC) to be on-board the aircraft for free. You should check with the airline before you fly with them.

You can get more information about travelling with oxygen supplies from the NHS Home Oxygen Service and British Lung Foundation websites.

Medical forms you may need to complete

If you have any medical needs, the airline may ask you to complete the following standard forms before you travel:

  • Incapacitated Passengers Handling Advice (INCAD) 
  • Medical Information (MEDIF)

The airline will be able to give you any forms they require you to complete. You can also get these forms from some travel agents.

The forms help staff organise any assistance or equipment you may need during your journey and to decide whether you are fit to fly. With some airlines, the INCAD and MEDIF are two parts of the same form.

You can fill in the INCAD form yourself, but the MEDIF form must be completed by your doctor.

Most people don't have to fill in the MEDIF form. This includes people who have stable, long-term disabilities and medical conditions.

You should contact the airline and discuss your disability or medical condition with them, even if your doctor says you are fit to fly. This is because different airlines have different policies about carrying disabled passengers and people with medical conditions.

Frequent Traveller Medical Card

The MEDIF and INCAD forms only last for one journey. If you are a frequent traveller, you may be able to get a Frequent Traveller Medical Card (FREMEC) from your airline.

The FREMEC gives the airline a permanent record of your specific needs. This means you won’t have to fill in a form and make special arrangements every time you fly.

Before you travel with a different airline from the one that issued your FREMEC card, you should check that they will accept it.

Planning your journey to and from the airport

Airports are generally on the outskirts of cities and towns and may not have accessible transport links.

If you’re driving to the airport, it is worth checking with the airport if there are:

  • any parking concessions for disabled people
  • accessible buses for transfer from long stay car parks

A number of taxi and minicabs have wheelchair accessible vehicles which may be available for travel to the airport.

You should visit the website of your departure airport(s) to find out about the layout of the airport and where various facilities are situated. This includes check-in desks, car parking, accessible toilets, information desks and more.

Planning your journey to your accommodation

There may be some accessible taxis and minibuses for transfers from the airport to your accommodation. Your travel agent or airline may be able to arrange this at your destination airport. 

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