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How does mobility/wheelchair assistance work?

How does mobility/wheelchair assistance work?

Old May 29, 22, 8:10 am
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How does mobility/wheelchair assistance work?

Senior family member got injured during a trip and will require mobility assistance. I've already arranged for the official assistance from the airline, but wasn't able to get clarification from them what to expect.

-at departing airport, will same person wheel them all the way from check-in onto the plane? or will they be dropped off at the gate, then someone else eventually wheel them on?
-at transferring airport, will they be escorted to the lounge (flying J), or is it another drop off at the gate situation?

IIRC, those needing assistance are first to board, but last to disembark
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Old May 29, 22, 6:20 pm
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Limited experience (same as yours--my wife was hurt on a trip), one from check-in to the gate, a different one to board. Beware that at our connecting airport they wanted to leave her at the gate with no chair--for a very long connection. She solved the problem by refusing to get out of the chair until they provided another. (The chair is assigned to the pusher, not to the flyer.) Note that there will be a change of chairs at the end of the jetway--standard chairs won't work on a plane, the plane chairs are too unstable for general use. (They're reasonably safe on the plane--there's little opportunity to tip when they're going between seats.)
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Loren Pechtel is offline  
Old May 30, 22, 1:08 am
Join Date: Mar 2016
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I had two foot surgeries in 2020 and found that the service varied quite a bit by airport.

At PDX (where I normally originate), I was met at the check in desk and taken to my gate (or the Delta Sky Club, if I was early). I didn't need help getting to my seat on the plane, I just couldn't walk long distances. Coming home, I would be picked up at the bottom of the jet bridge, taken to baggage claim, and then wheeled out to the curb to wait for my ride.

Service was similar at SEA and SLC for connections, they would take me to the Sky Club and drop me off, and then pick me up and take me to the gate.

LAX was a cluster. Came in on a bus gate. No help getting down the stairs or on the bus. No one waiting where the bus stops at the terminal. Had to find my own way to the escalator and upstairs - where I finally see a chair pusher holding a sign with my name. I was so annoyed, I just kept on hobbling...

At ATL they picked me up at the jet bridge and took me to baggage claim, and then just left me there. Had to get myself over to the train to the rental car center (honestly not sure what I was expecting, but it sure was a pain to schlep my bags while hobbling on a walking boot).

At MSP they had a chair take me up to the gate, and then shifted me to one of the golf carts to my next gate.

So, mixed bag.

I feel like the best bet is to confirm expectations with the chair pusher before you even start moving.
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Qwkynuf is offline  
Old May 30, 22, 6:36 am
Join Date: Mar 2004
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It all depends - on the airline, the airport, the time of day, etc. There really is no predicting how the wheelchair service is going to work (or not) on any given day or flight.

You'd probably get more definitive answers by posting the question in the disability forum since those folks have a great deal of experience dealing with these kinds of things: https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/disability-travel-224/
Flyingmama is offline  
Old May 31, 22, 6:14 am
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Whether you deal with one wheelchair pusher or more varies a lot, At some airports you can call for assistance from phones near the disabled parking areas at others it starts at the checkin desk (if you will require assistance before check in make sure you find the airports assistance number in case they don't have special phones)
Normally an assistant will help you from checkin through security to the departure lounge. VIP lounge (if eligible) or gate depending on airport and time to departure, Usually you will be left until nearer to boarding time when you will be collected and taken to the plane.
At the other end you should be met at the plane and assisted all the way through immigration, baggage claim, customs to the terminal exit. At most airports they are willing to take you out to the car parks/ transportation/ car rental.
Since we usually travel with own wheelchair/mobility scooter we don't usually require assistance outside the terminal.
When there is no air bridge the airport should provide an ambulift truck to lift you onto/off the plane.

My wife prefers to to make her own way from plane seat to door rather than using an aisle chair - she has had bad experience being bumped against seat arm rests in an aisle chair.

Last edited by mymsman; May 31, 22 at 6:20 am
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Old Jun 14, 22, 8:03 am
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It varies based on airport. I fractured my foot in October, and had an incredibly short connection in LHR in December. It would've been challenging to make when 100% recovered, and I knew I wouldn't have the time given that I was 2 weeks into PT and not walking well. In LHR, I was met at the gate, had all of the expedited services, including a separate shuttle to the plane, with a portion of the "shuttle" bus lifting up to the plane, so I avoided all steps, etc.

At JFK, I again was met at the gate, zoomed through CBP, and out to the passenger pick-up area.

At CLT, there was one employee at the gate, with four passengers requesting services. He gave me a ton of attitude and was not happy to be at work. Given that I saw no option for how he would manage to wheel four wheelchairs at once, I opted to try to hoof it, knowing that I'd likely need to stop and rest.
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