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Old Mar 30, 06, 5:20 am   #1
fun
 
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Gate checking an electric scooter?

Can anyone share any experiences they might have with this? Airlines to avoid? Airlines you like? Things to watch out for? The process itself--do they leave it whole, or disassemble, etc.? It does have gel cell batteries.
Thanks for any advice or comments you might share!
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Old Mar 31, 06, 7:22 am   #2
 
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I'm going to find out this summer. I'll be taking my powerchair IAD-SEA in June.
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Old Apr 5, 06, 10:34 am   #3
 
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FlyingPenguin always gate checks her manual chair and gives them the power chair (if we take it) at checkin. (So many places/vehicles which won't take a power chair that she takes both. Much easier for both airport and us to get the power chair and all its paperwork dealt with early.)

We've been pretty unimpressed with Alaska and America West. United and American have both been good. This is out of SEA and, obviously, airline staff differ a lot from airport to airport. (UA staff in ORD, for example, are very officious.) To give a specific example, her power chair with back upright won't fit through the cargo doors of an MD80. Alaska handled that situation by putting the wheelchair on its side and, inevitably, breaking one of the control boxes. Later when we were on an American MD80 flight, we queried them about the size and they said we'd need to remove the back from the chair, and staff member said they would put the wheelchair on another plane if it wouldn't fit safely upright. He then went down to the plane to check and came back to us at the gate to tell us that it make it with less than an inch to spare. Alaska staff have also tended to want to push the manual chair and have even started to do so without asking!

So long as the chair/scooter fits into the hold, they won't do any disassembly. Hold doors are tiny on 737-200s and MD80s, so best to avoid them if you can (as if most of us don't already!) when taking such a large object. Airlines are paranoid about batteries. If you don't have an obvious quick disconnect cable that totally removes any chance of power being applied to the motor or controls, they will want to take the batteries out and physically disconnect the terminals (and cover them in tape). If you do have such a cable, they will just cover the ends of the disconnected cable with tape.
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Old Apr 5, 06, 3:07 pm   #4
fun
 
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Thanks for posting.
My electric scooter has two gel cell batteries, which are supposed to be convenient for air travel. But the only way to disconnect them is to take apart almost the whole thing. If I bring the owners manual that documents the battery type, will that help to have them not take it apart??
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Old Apr 5, 06, 10:00 pm   #5
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fun
But the only way to disconnect them is to take apart almost the whole thing. If I bring the owners manual that documents the battery type, will that help to have them not take it apart??
Not in the slightest. They will be happy to accept what you tell them about battery type. They will want to ensure that the batteries are not connected to anything (including control circuits, not just motors) and hence can't create sparks while being transported. They will do whatever they have to do to ensure the batteries are disconnected. If that means taking the scooter apart, they will probably do that. ... and then you'll have to put it back together at the arrival end with no documentation of what they've done.

I suggest you get an easy means of physical disconnection fitted. Make it simple to use and close to the batteries, so that airport personnel are easily convinced that pulling those connectors apart really does disconnect the batteries.
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Old Apr 6, 06, 11:53 am   #6
 
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On my powerchair, if I pulled the controller and joystick cables off, will that be enough? The gel batteries are connected but the chair won't go without the controller.

You said that someone gate checks manual chair and gives powerchair to airline at checkin. Is there an extra charge to bring both chairs?
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Old Apr 6, 06, 6:50 pm   #7
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DeafFlyer
On my powerchair, if I pulled the controller and joystick cables off, will that be enough? The gel batteries are connected but the chair won't go without the controller.
Hard to say. For one thing, checkin agents are trying to follow very strict regulations about an item they are unfamiliar with. They are not electrical engineers (generally) and are responsible for not sending something in a dangerous condition into the hold. Ask yourself this: Can a person of average IQ who has never seen this type of device before tell, with 100% certainty, that the power is disconnected?

No airline has ever tried to charge us to bring both chairs. A Qantas phone booking agent once said that it was possible they would charge us, but it never happened. No US carrier has even suggested the possibility.
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Old Apr 7, 06, 6:43 am   #8
 
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Thanks. Many disabled say to gate check the powerchair, but it seems like they have newer chairs with easier access to the batteries. My older chair you have to remove the seat, pull off the shroud, then disconnect batteries. I've been told to attach instructions.

One other suggestion I've recieved is to take photos of the chair prior to travel, with that days newspaper, and mail a copy to yourself, but don't open it. It will be proof of chair condition should the airline balk at fixing a chair they damaged.
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Old Apr 7, 06, 8:56 pm   #9
fun
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DeafFlyer
One other suggestion I've recieved is to take photos of the chair prior to travel, with that days newspaper, and mail a copy to yourself, but don't open it. It will be proof of chair condition should the airline balk at fixing a chair they damaged.
Wow.

How about taking a picture at the airport with the chair and the gate attendant
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Old Apr 7, 06, 11:07 pm   #10
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DeafFlyer
Many disabled say to gate check the powerchair, but it seems like they have newer chairs with easier access to the batteries. My older chair you have to remove the seat, pull off the shroud, then disconnect batteries. I've been told to attach instructions.

One other suggestion I've recieved is to take photos of the chair prior to travel, with that days newspaper, and mail a copy to yourself, but don't open it. It will be proof of chair condition should the airline balk at fixing a chair they damaged.
FWIW, it's not age, it's just poor design. There are some very modern, very expensive chairs which have no easy way to disconnect the power. However, it's usually fairly trivial to get ones wheelchair shop/handiman/etc to insert a pair of connectors into the power lead(s) from the batteries to allow quick disconnection.

In our experience, getting NorAm airlines to pay for any damage is never a problem. FlyingPenguin has suggested to her wheelchair shop that they should subsidise her travel, since it brings them so much business.
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Old Apr 7, 06, 11:50 pm   #11
 
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Talking Checking electric scooters, w/chairs, etc.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fun
Can anyone share any experiences they might have with this? Airlines to avoid? Airlines you like? Things to watch out for? The process itself--do they leave it whole, or disassemble, etc.? It does have gel cell batteries.
Thanks for any advice or comments you might share!
I've had no trouble with my Segway (used for impairment, not recreation) on UA, US, & SAS/ Will be testing NZ in May. Basicallly what they want is to be obviously disconnected & leakproof. They are happiest if you can remove the batteries, but will settle for disconnectiioon is it's not feasible to to remove them. They will want evidence that the batteries are safe in any position (no leaks). The best thing to do is get a "Safety Data Document" from the manufacturer (of the vehicle, who usuallyy get it from the manufaacaturer of the batteries). It should identify the Make & Model, & have a section referring to "Air Transport Information" It helps if you can take the vehicle & the data to the airport well ahead of time. I have even taken it down the day before. They seem to apprpeciate not being put "under the gun" to make a quick or uninformed decision. Good Luck! Sawbons.
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