In this day and age of improved airline access regulations, flying has become rather commonplace for many wheelchair-users. And that’s a very good thing. Sure there are still hiccups, but flying is a far cry from what it was in the pre-ACAA days — when airlines could refuse wheelchair-users passage for any capricious reason, and those lucky souls that were permitted to board were required to sit on blankets for fear they would soil the seats.
And although seamless access is a good thing, it’s still wise to check with the airlines in advance to see if they have any size restrictions for assistive devices. Most airlines do have them, because the cargo bin doors are only so wide. And although most times there are work-arounds (disassembly), it’s good to know if this will be an issue before you get to the airport.
Unfortunately Daniel Wakefield in the UK found that out a bit too late. Wakefield — who uses a power wheelchair — was scheduled to fly to Rome on Jet 2; however he had to cancel his plans when he discovered his wheelchair was too large. According to the Jet 2 website, “electric mobility aids which exceed 81 centimeters in height will only be carried if the height can be reduced by either folding/removing the seat to enable it to fit through the aircraft hold door:” And unfortunately due to the design of Wakefield’s wheelchair, that was not possible, so he was not permitted to fly.
Even though Wakefield’s experience happened over in the UK, it should serve as a red flag for wheelchair-users over here. Size does matter and most airlines have their cargo bin door widths listed on their website in the “special assistance” section. Be sure and look that up, especially if you have a large power wheelchair. Although the measurements vary, most cargo bin doors are about 38 to 40 inches wide and 24 to 26 inches tall.
So check your measurements before you head to the airport in order to avoid disappointment. It only takes a few minutes and it could save you a world of problems.