January 22, 2007

Advice for Airline Operators from Australia

The following information is available online but bears duplication here in part:

Disabled travellers - a guide for airline operators

This information has been adapted from a presentation by Jane Buckley - Director of medical services, Australian Paralympic Team.

Disabled passengers have different needs to the 'average' traveller. The result could easily be a journey which is stressful for all concerned. It can also be a trip that is rewarding for staff, relaxing for the passengers concerned and enhances the airline's image for all those involved. The difference is mostly in the preparation.

If a passenger is travelling independently, allow them to tell you how it is best to assist them. There are several different ways of helping. Passengers may just want assistance with moving their legs during a transfer from their wheelchair to their seat. Lifting can be quite dangerous if done incorrectly.

When dealing with disabled people, airline staff need to be aware that some disabilities are not obvious. Patronising or speaking louder is not appreciated.

Booking the flight and checking in

Emphasise to passengers that they should get there early. Inform them about baggage allowances. It may be necessary to ask groups such as athletes to deliver excess baggage early to ensure it is ready for them at their destination.

There are regulations in force under national and international laws governing the carriage of dangerous goods by passengers.

Identify any specific needs well in advance of check-in. Passengers with severe disabilities should be accompanied by their own carer or assistant. Large groups will need co-ordinated planning by the airline and group organisers.

Wheelchair passengers

Passengers should be able to take their own wheelchairs to the gate. They should not be expected to surrender their chair at check in and have it substituted with an uncomfortable and often dangerous chair until they board the plane. Its a bit like expecting an able bodied person to surrender their legs until their journey was over. As well as being uncomfortable and inconvenient, it makes it difficult to do last minute things like shopping and going to the toilet.

Passengers like wheelchair athletes will have multiple wheelchairs. Their 'day chair' should be taken to the gate, tagged appropriately, and available at the gate on arrival at their destination. Day chairs belonging to passengers should NEVER be offloaded as excess baggage. Many "ambulant" passengers also use day chairs.
Battery-powered wheelchairs and mobility aids

For reasons of safety the carriage by airlines of battery-powered wheelchairs and mobility aids is regulated under national and international laws.

Further information on transport of battery-powered wheelchairs.


Experienced travellers will have made arrangements for the physical aspects of boarding. Less experienced passengers will let the airline staff do the work. Cabin crew need to be familiar with the use of an aisle chair.

Take care when assisting. Ensure the passenger is lifted well clear of the armrests. Knocking them against the armrests can cause pressure areas.

Pressure area management is usually unique to paraplegics and tetraplegics. These passengers may want to sit on their own pressure relieving cushions. These should be kept with the passengers at all times, as they can be easily lost.


Posted by rollingrains at January 22, 2007 06:55 PM