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Paranoid about new wheelchair

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Old Nov 13, 13, 8:40 am
  #1  
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Paranoid about new wheelchair

Born in Y2K with Spina Bifida, I'm now a disabled 13 year old girl who uses leg braces and a wheelchair part-time. My parents are divorced.This Christmas holiday, I will be flying solo from Los Angeles to Denver to see my father. I'm probably not as frequent of a flyer as most of you here are, but.I'm comfortable about finding my way around an airport.
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Many of you will think I'm silly, but the only thing I'm worried about.is my new wheelchair getting ruined. A few years ago, my wheelchair was checked in as baggage and it arrived at the destination airport with a pronounced dent. This time I'm adamant about bringing it to the cabin with me. Here are my questions:
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1. Can my wheelchair be treated as a stroller in the cabin? My wheelchair size is 14'' (this is between the size of a child and adult wheelchair)
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2. If the above is disallowed and there is not enough space in the cabin (which is likely admist the holidays), may I disassemble it and put some parts in the overhead and some parts under the seat in front of me?
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3. If I hire a wheelchair pusher at the airport, am I expected to be seated at all times? I don't want to be disrespectful.
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Are there other young wheelchair users in this forum? Do you find the airport wheelchairs uncomfortable? I find them very big and difficult to maneuver...this is another reason why I want to use my own. Another reason is possible delay-- I wouldn't want to be confined to a clunky chair while strolling around.
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Sorry for the essay and numerous questions. Thank you if you got this far. Would really appreciate answers to these questions or better alternatives of handling a wheelchair.
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Got to go to school now.

Anna x
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Old Nov 13, 13, 10:13 am
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Welcome to FT. You should read the link in this thread: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/disab...ir-travel.html

There is a law (the Air Carrier Access Act) which has a section about onboard wheelchair stowage. It was just amended (there's another thread about it). You need to request that it be stowed onboard in the closet.

You can use your own chair all the way to the plane door by requesting it to be gate checked. That is what most of us do. It will be no problem. Airport chairs do suck.

I have heard of others who put parts of their chair in the overhead, but I have no experience with that.

You don't hire a wheelchair pusher (unless you want to). It is a free service mandated by the law. Some people give them tips, some don't.

Don't worry about too many questions. Ask away! We're here to help.
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Old Nov 13, 13, 3:06 pm
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I always request for my manual wheelchair to be placed in the cabin closet. I make the request when the ticket is purchased, again 24 hours before the flight, again when we check our bags and at the gate (multiple times at the gate).

I travel with a copy of the Air Carrier Access Act with the pertinent parts highlighted as well as the same information from the airlines website (also highlighted). When that doesn't work (sometimes the gate agent is helpful, sometimes not), I ask for a Complaint Resolution Officer.

I've only had to do this twice and both times it was resolved with the CRO requiring the flight attendants to remove their luggage from the cabin closet in order to place my wheelchair in it. If there is no cabin closet, or it is too small to hold my wheelchair, I stay in my wheelchair until I board.

I need an aisle chair to get to my seat. So, I transfer to the aisle chair at the end of the jetway and then leave the wheelchair (after removing my cushion, arms and legs and bringing them on board), folded in the jetway with the gate check tag displayed. That way it will be returned to the airplane after the flight and not sent to baggage.

I haven't had these issue lately because my travel wheelchair has wheels that pop off and the entire thing can fit in an overhead compartment.

Roughly, the rule requires them to give priority to a manual wheelchair in the cabin, but you have to ask and remind and ask and remind in order for it to happen. Like you, I don't care for the airport wheelchairs and don't see any reason to switch to an airport chair.

Either my wheelchair is going to be in the plane cabin with me or it is going to be gate checked after I board and then brought back up the jetway after the flight. Which means there is no need for an airport wheelchair.

I just refuse when the gate agents tell me that I "need" to check my wheelchair with the luggage. That isn't true and they can't require it.
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Old Nov 16, 13, 11:52 am
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Welcome to FT.

Wheelchairs have more rights in terms of being stowed in the cabin than strollers do.

What kind of chair is it (rigid, folding?). The airline is only required to stow one folding chair, but I've had intermittent luck getting my rigid chair stowed in the cabin as well.
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Old Nov 16, 13, 12:49 pm
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Thanks for the advice deafflyer! Your links are very helpful. Yes, by hire I do mean giving tips. In the US, it is customary to tip service providing workers, so I don't feel right about not tipping them considering that they do more personalized work than waiters do.
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Good point of bringing the ACAA along with you Figgie. I won't be surprised if airline employees pressure us into checking in our wheelchairs as baggage. When they see that we are physically disabled, many of them assume we are also cognitively disabled, making us vulnerable and subject to bullying (as they think we aren't smart enough to challenge them).
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Katja, I have a Tilite Twist. Frame is rigid, wheelchair size is 14'' x 14''. Will it fit in the cabin closet (I'm guessing the crews put all of the belongings there)? Is your wheelchair bigger or smaller than mine?
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Really appreciate the replies, thanks again!
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Old Nov 16, 13, 3:10 pm
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Closet size depends on the aircraft. On most aircraft, the closet is for first class passenger jackets, etc, plus crew bags, but one folding wheelchair (assuming the passenger takes advantage of preboarding) has priority. My wheelchair is 15"x17", with 24" wheels.

You're unlikely to be able to determine for certain that your wheelchair will wind up in the cabin on any given flight. I know that's scary, and I know that you've had previous experience with your chair being damaged. We just have to take that risk into account. Be aware of your rights as a wheelchair user. Be polite but firm in requesting them, or in requesting something additional (like having your rigid chair stowed in the cabin). If your chair does wind up going under the plane, take everything off that could be lost or damaged (cushion, bags, etc.) Put a permanent label on it. When you get it back, check it for damage then and there on the jetway.
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Old Jul 7, 17, 7:12 pm
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im flying again in asia. the asia airlines' standards in dealing with wheelchairs are not very high.
it is like an afterthought.
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Old Jul 7, 17, 7:13 pm
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Good luck!
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Old Oct 12, 17, 7:14 pm
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I'm flying for the first time with my new chair, and I too am scared of damage or loss...I'm still undecided on if I should take it ( but I have 2 months to make up my mind). Mine is rigid but parts can be removed
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Old Oct 13, 17, 11:30 am
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Originally Posted by wmweeza View Post
I'm flying for the first time with my new chair, and I too am scared of damage or loss...I'm still undecided on if I should take it ( but I have 2 months to make up my mind). Mine is rigid but parts can be removed
Having done so many times, I say you should take it.
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Old Oct 13, 17, 7:25 pm
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We use a travel chair for my son, and we either gate check it or check it as baggage depending on connection times. However, regardless of how we check it, we always take the feet off and put them in the overhead bin. His travel chair gets damaged no matter which way we check it, but at least we don't lose the feet. Gorilla tape is our friend.

Also, I have never seen the storage closet on board as being large enough to store a wheelchair or even something as small as my son's travel chair when it is folded up.
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Old Oct 14, 17, 6:48 pm
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Originally Posted by wmweeza View Post
I'm flying for the first time with my new chair, and I too am scared of damage or loss...I'm still undecided on if I should take it ( but I have 2 months to make up my mind). Mine is rigid but parts can be removed
I can definitely sympathize!

That said, I fly all the time, and so far, so good. Remove anything removable. I have a rigid chair as well, but the only thing that comes off is my cushion and my bag.
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Old Oct 16, 17, 1:49 am
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Originally Posted by Katja View Post
I can definitely sympathize!

That said, I fly all the time, and so far, so good. Remove anything removable. I have a rigid chair as well, but the only thing that comes off is my cushion and my bag.
The wheels pop off, the backrest on mine folds down, and yes the cushion comes off. Regretfully insurance would only cover a basic (VERY heavy) manual wheelchair so I bought mine out of pocket recently. It's my first nice chair, and I've had around 5 over the years.
After using it for a few months now I am certain I am going to end up with BUFF arms! I forgot how hard it is to push on carpeting now that I'm using one again
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Old Oct 16, 17, 9:58 am
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I do not pop off the wheels or fold down the back. I do take the cushion into the cabin with me. If asked, I say that the chair does not fold - I donít trust baggage handlers to understand the difference between a folding and a rigid chair.
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Old Oct 17, 17, 8:10 am
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Originally Posted by Katja View Post
I do not pop off the wheels or fold down the back. I do take the cushion into the cabin with me. If asked, I say that the chair does not fold - I donít trust baggage handlers to understand the difference between a folding and a rigid chair.
Pin a note to it that says, "do not fold" in various languages, depending on where you're going. I actually did pin a "property of DeafFlyer" to my chair when I was paranoid someone would take it, thinking it was an airport chair. I even had my picture on it. Why? Because I am always the last one off of the plane.
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