Traveling with a wheelchair on a United Airlines flight

Planning ahead is the key to smooth and successful air travel for United passengers who require a wheelchair for all or part of their trip. If you let the airline know your needs early on, you’ll have a much better chance of having a cohesive travel experience.

Traveling with a wheelchair by plane: Instructions to follow

Book your ticket on the website, through the U.S. toll-free number 180.0228.2744, or through an authorized travel agent.

If you book your ticket on, you can select a wheelchair assistance option during the reservation process. Choose the option that applies to your situation: The passenger can walk, but needs a wheelchair for the distance to / from the door; The passenger can walk, but needs help going up / down the stairs; or The passenger is unable to walk and needs assistance to sit on the plane.

When you select one of these options, the US carrier will make a note on your passenger record that should ensure you receive the level of assistance you need. If you are booking by phone, let the booking agent know your specific assistance needs.

If you book your plane ticket from a travel agency or third party site, they must forward your wheelchair request to your airline, but you must also call them to confirm that you have received your wheelchair ordered.

How is boarding done with a wheelchair?

Folding wheelchairs (manual and battery operated) are usually installed as hand luggage, space permitting. United Airlines recommends that you speak with the boarding agent at least thirty minutes before boarding to arrange pre-boarding and storage of your wheelchair.

Wheelchairs (including battery-powered and non-folding models) can also be checked curbside for door-to-door delivery. It is particularly important for wheelchair passengers to check in at least one hour before departure to ensure that wheelchairs will be carried in the cabin and not in the hold. The airline does not charge wheelchair baggage fees.

If you do not have a wheelchair or plan to check-in your wheelchair but need wheelchair assistance at the airport, request a wheelchair from skycap or the check-in agent. If you need an extra-large wheelchair, it is especially important to call the airline in advance to make arrangements.

– Don’t take risks

Call the airline at least 48 hours before your flight (the sooner the better) and ask to speak to a special assistance coordinator to confirm your wheelchair needs and any special requests, like screen to be; this can reduce the chances of communication problems, which is always possible when dealing with a major airline. If your flight has been rescheduled or you crashed for some reason, call the airline again and make sure your wheelchair request remains in your reservation.

How is the check-in process for a passenger with reduced mobility?

It is recommended that you arrive at the airport 2 hours before your flight. Report your arrival to one of the contact points available to you. This could be a reception kiosk, a reception desk or the check-in counter of the airline with which you are traveling.

Personally, you may be used to going directly to the company counter. This is all the more convenient as there is always a priority line reserved for passengers in need of assistance. To proceed with your registration, the person at the counter will fill out a form for the transport of the wheelchair, indicating the following information:

– The type of chair (manual or electric);
– The brand of the chair;
– The type of battery and how to deactivate it during the flight.

You will sometimes be asked for a manufacturer’s certificate to verify the information given orally. This has happened to you at airports in a few European cities.

A label will be affixed to your wheelchair, in the same way as baggage that goes into the hold. The person at the counter will then notify the assistance service that you are there and ask you to wait in a dedicated area while waiting for an agent to arrive.

From the moment your wheelchair is taken care of at check-in, the airline is responsible for it and will have to compensate you in the event of loss or breakage.

You must make the special declaration of interest at the company registration desk when you register. This allows you to declare the exact value of your wheelchair (provide a copy of the purchase invoice) so that the company can compensate you more than its limit allows. This declaration may be subject to the possible payment of an additional sum.

While each airline remains responsible for any damage to a wheelchair, it is not their own staff who handles it. It subcontracts this work to a specialized assistance company, independent of the airport. It is therefore the employees of this company who will take care of your precious companion. You sometimes hear headlines in the press like, “Wheelchair broken by airline.” Be careful to make the distinction. It was a private company that mistreated the chair. On the other hand, it is the company which is held responsible and which must provide the necessary assistance to passengers with reduced mobility.

Pass customs control

After check-in, a support agent will pick you up to go through security and take you to the departure lounge. This agent will sometimes ask you to leave your chair to transfer you to a loaner chair belonging to the airport.

Please be aware that it is your full right to stay in your own chair until the departure lounge, even if the agent tells you otherwise. Do not hesitate to do this because your chair will undoubtedly be much more comfortable than the one in the airport. However, depending on the configuration of the airport, this may not be possible.

Regarding the controls, it is not possible to pass the metal detection gantry in a wheelchair because it is too narrow. You will therefore be taken to a wider door on the side, after asking you to remove your personal belongings that could trigger the alarm: jacket, coat, bag and sometimes even your shoes (unless they are orthopedic).

Specify whether you wear a lap belt, an insulin pump or a pacemaker and do not forget your valid prescriptions and certificates.

More traditional, you will have to put in a bin the metal parts such as your keys, your change, your belt, and in a separate bin electronic devices such as smartphones, laptops, tablets, cameras.

Finally, liquids should not be transported in containers of more than 100 ml, creams and aerosols included (unless they are put in a transparent plastic bag available at the entrance to the filtering inspection station.

During the screening, United Airlines agents can use a hand-held detector or perform a manual search of you and your wheelchair. Don’t hesitate to warn them if you can’t move your arms when they ask you to lift them.

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