Air Travel Tips

Air Travel Access Act

This 1986 Department of Transportation rule (Title 14 CFR, Part 382) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in air travel and requires carriers to accommodate the needs of passengers with disabilities. Airlines may not require advance notice that a person with a disability is flying, but may require up to 48 hours advance notice for certain accommodations that require preparation time such as transporting a power wheelchair on an aircraft with less than 60 seats.  They may not require a person with a disability to travel with an attendant. New aircraft ordered after April 5, 1990 with 30 or more seats must have movable aisle armrests on half the aisle seats. Twin-aisle aircraft must have accessible lavatories. New aircraft with 100 or more seats must have priority space for storing a passenger's folding wheelchair in the cabin. Aircraft with more than 60 seats and an accessible lavatory must have an on-board wheelchair. Click this link for a guide to the Air Carrier Access Act.  This Act was amended in April, 2000 to cover foreign air carriers.


Tips for Wheelchair or Scooter Users

Passengers in wheelchairs who can't walk through the detectors will be offered a private area where a screener will search them by hand while seated. Passengers who can stand, but not walk will be asked to stand near their wheelchair or scooter for the screening. Regardless of how the passenger is screened, expect an inspection of the wheelchair or scooter including the seat cushions and any non-removable pouches or fanny packs.  The mobility device will be tested for explosives and any removable pouches will be required to undergo X-ray screening.  TSA's goal is to ensure that every passenger with a disability knows what to expect at every airport, every time, everywhere," said Sandra Cammaroto, manager of TSA's screening of persons with disabilities program. For more information regarding the regulations affecting passengers with disabilities, please visit the TSA's website. It is suggested that you call the TSA Cares help line 72 hours ahead of travel for information and what to expect during screening. Call 855-787-2227 Monday through Friday 8 a.m.-11 p.m. eastern time, weekends and holidays 9 a.m. - 8 p.m. eastern time. You can also email at


TSA Notification Card

Passengers may find it helpful to carry a Notification Card and present it to the screeners as a way to discreetly communicate information about specific needs. Click here to download the Notification Card.


Specific Airline Procedures

Always check with individual airlines regarding their procedures for checking wheelchairs or scooters.  You will want to know if the plane you booked will accommodate your folding wheelchair inside or if it must be checked.  You will want to know if you can drive your power chair directly to the gate.  You will want to know if the airline will disassemble your chair.  If so, you should provide instructions for assembly/disassemlby along with your wheelchair's specific battery type to the wheelchair. Ask if there is a specific form to fill out covering Wheelchair Handling Information.  Here is an example that Delta suggests you use.   You may also need to identify your battery as lithium-ion, wet-cell or dry-cell "non-spillable." Lithium-ion batteries are not permitted to be carried by passengers as checked or carry-on baggage.  

Some Airline Links for Accessible Travel Recommendations



American Airlines





Tips for Traveling with a Disability from 15 major airlines.
Use this link if the links above don't include the airline you are using. 

How to Make Flying with Disabilities Less Stressful - A Fully Accessible Guide
Here is a guide that provides accessibility information for the top 15 U.S airports and the types of services provided for physically disabled travelers.  It includes information on how to find and access these services once you've arrived at the airport, while you're boarding the plane, and once you've reached your destination. 

Blind or Low Vision

Passengers who are blind or have low vision should notify a security officer and inform him or her of the assistance needed. Standard imaging technology will be used only if passengers do not have a service animal. Canes and other devices must go through the screening.

May, 2003-New Airport Check-in Policy
According to new regulations from the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA), security screeners at airports are not allowed to separate a blind passenger from a guide dog, and then take the harness off the animal. Screeners also will talk to blind passengers, helping them to empty their pockets of metal and make sure they reclaim their items at the other end of the X-ray machine. Screeners will keep the guide dog's harness on as the animal goes through the metal detector, then pat down the dog by hand.

Traveling with Your Eyes Shut Series
8 part series from Large Print Reviews that provides tips on traveling if you are visually impaired. See the following for info about air travel or click the link above for the full series.


Traveling with a Guide Dog

Air Travel


Travel Resources for the Visually Impaired
This website provides links to other sites. Included are:

  • Travel Planning Guides for the Visually Impaired
  • Travel Tips for the Visually Impaired
  • Understanding Your Rights as a Traveler with a Vision Impairment
  • Specialist Organizations for the Visually Impaired Who Want to Travel


Editor's Notes

Scooter Rental:  If you're planning to rent a scooter at your destination, locate vendors in advance and make arrangements from home by phone so you can have the equipment waiting for you at the airport, or at least reserved for you to pick up. That way you won't have to use your vacation time to hunt down a rental, which can get very complicated especially in a foreign country.

Carrying Medicine: If you need to carry medicine that needs refrigeration, carry it in a small, thermal shoulder pack (they're available as lunchboxes at discount stores such as K-Mart or Target) and place a cool pack or ice inside it. Keep syringes together with your medicine: One without the other is useless to you. If it's a lengthy flight, ask a flight attendant to stow your medicine and cool pack in the plane's refrigeration area, but hang onto your thermal shoulder pack and syringes.



There are many websites with travel tips.  Access-Able Travel Source has great tips for traveling with oxygen, finding a hotel room, airline travel, cruise ship information, service animals, blind and low vision and finding transportation.  If you still have questions after reading this site, contact the co-owner, Carol Randall:

(303) 232-2979
Fax: 303-239-8486


Luggage Tips for Wheelchair Travel by Erik Kondo
Great tips for managing luggage including bringing along wheelchair related tools and supplies. 


Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality
You will find tips her for traveling with wheelchairs, with a sight impairment or blindness, with a speech impairment, with arthritis, with kidney disease, with a child with a disability, with diabetes, with autism, with mobility impairments and more.

More Air Travel Information

Did you know that airports under construction or being refurbished must comply with the ADA Accessibility Guidelines? This includes accessible parking near the terminal, accessible restrooms, drinking fountains, ticketing systems at primary fare collection areas, telephones and text telephones, baggage check-in and retrieval areas, level entry boarding ramps and lifts and information systems.  

To learn about your rights on U.S. air carriers, free publications are available:

A 28-page information booklet on the Air Carriers Access Act offers a wealth of information on what you can expect and what to do if you have a complaint. Contact: The Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association, 75-20 Astoria Boulevard, Jackson Heights, NY 11370-1177; (718) 803-EPVA or follow this link to view the information online. 

The U.S. Department of Transportation has a 40-page booklet, "New Horizons, Information for the Air Traveler with a Disability." Contact PVA Distribution Center, (888) 860-7244 (Order No. 2100-16) or view it online.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has established a toll-free hotline to assist
air travelers with disabilities. The hotline will provide general
information to consumers about the rights of air travelers with
disabilities, respond to requests for printed consumer information, and assist air travelers with time-sensitive disability-related issues that need to be addressed in "real time." The line is staffed from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. eastern time, Monday through Friday except federal holidays. Air travelers who experience disability-related air travel service problems may file a complaint using the information on this website or call the hotline at 1-800-778-4838 (voice) or 1-800-455-9880 (TTY) to obtain assistance.

The Air Carriers Access Act requires all air carriers to compensate passengers twice the liability limit established for passenger's luggage or $2,500 per passenger. For international travel, the liability is $9.07 per pound of checked baggage and $400 per passenger for unchecked baggage. See 14 CFR Part 382, Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel.