Southwest: Assistance for air travel with a wheelchair or electric scooter
Southwest Airlines strives to make flying comfortable for its passengers. But taking care of the special needs of travelers sometimes becomes the job of the travelers themselves.
The American low-cost airline has its own policy, so flight conditions for passengers with disabilities may vary (including the issue of seats).
Flying with a wheelchair: Plan your plane trip in advance
Once you have purchased the ticket, it is advisable to call Southwest Airlines customer service so that they can provide you with all the necessary information regarding boarding, security check, check-in, additional cost of the service and assistance from airport staff.
There are general guidelines in world practice. First, contact the airline or tour operator at least 48 hours before the flight or better when buying or booking a ticket.
Request a seat, if necessary, and describe in detail your needs and the parameters of your vehicle, specifying the weight, dimensions, …, so that the carrier is ready to provide you with everything you need in advance. In addition, an airline agent will guide you on transporting the chair and its batteries.
Find out about the existence of parking facilities and special toilets at the airport including on board the aircraft and what they are.
Take care of your ticket and boarding pass in advance so you don’t get stuck in queues or maybe get some perks. If necessary, notify staff that additional time will be required for embarkation or disembarkation. Ask how it’s done at each airport along your route: you might need an alternative to a stepladder.
To travel with a wheelchair, Southwest Airlines asks you to complete an online form no later than 48 hours before departure. MEDIF or FREMEC may be required at the airport. Personal wheelchairs of all types and sizes are carried as checked baggage in the aircraft hold. Within the limit of the baggage allowance, regardless of the class of travel or the auxiliary equipment on which the passenger is physically dependent.
Depending on the type of wheelchair, the passenger must prepare it for the flight:
– A wheelchair on dry battery. The battery terminals must be disconnected and the contacts insulated (so that there is no short circuit). Firmly attach the battery to the stroller.
– Wheelchair with electrolyte battery. When loading, unloading and during transport, it must remain in an upright position so that the electrolyte does not leak out. Otherwise, you will need to carry the seat as normal checked baggage. Disconnect the terminals, isolate the contacts, secure the battery.
– A folding wheelchair with manual controls is carried as checked baggage without restriction. The American airline sets special conditions for transporting batteries. The battery must have a special container made of strong and rigid material, impermeable to liquids and resistant to the electrolyte.
– The battery must be fully protected against short circuits and to prevent possible leakage of the contents, cover it with an absorbent so that the electrolyte that escapes is completely absorbed.
Checking in a manual wheelchair
In the case of transporting a manual wheelchair, it can be dismantled, folded and checked in directly at the counter like any other piece of luggage.
If it’s a non-folding wheelchair, there won’t be a problem, because it can be checked in anyway. Although we recommend that you check with the airline at least 48 hours in advance.
Checking in an electric wheelchair
If you have an electric wheelchair with dry, liquid or lithium batteries, it is essential to check with the airline beforehand.
Since loose parts, such as batteries, are usually disassembled and must be transported with hand luggage.
Another factor to keep in mind if you are traveling with an electric chair is to leave it in manual mode so that airport help desk personnel can easily move it.
How is the trip on the plane?
People with reduced mobility are usually the first to board and the last to get off the plane. Although it depends on each airline.
On the plane, there are reserved seats which are usually in the first rows and near the windows. Support personnel are responsible for accessing these seats with the passenger.
Seats are accessed via a finger or special vans with platforms for getting on and off the plane.
Finally, it is important to mention that you should check your travel insurance if you are traveling with a wheelchair by plane, to ensure that it covers mobility equipment in the event of loss or damage.