Synapse email updates


What's in an update?

Synapse endeavours to keep you updated with the latest information and news. If you would like to receive our monthly E-newsletter, please fill out your information above and we can keep you in the know!


Get The Facts

Taking Your Wheelchair on an Aeroplane - Fact Sheet

Information Services


Taking Your Wheelchair on an Aeroplane - Fact Sheet

Here are some things to consider when making airline reservations in Australia, although much of this information will apply internationally.


You should make your reservation as far in advance as possible. Inform the reservations person of your disability and ask what assistance may be required.


If it is a long flight and you are able to use a standard rest room but are unable to walk to the rest room, ask that they make the aisle chair available to you during the flight.


Always confirm that the airline has a record of your requests 48 hours prior to departure. Some of the newer aeroplanes have lift up armrests on some aisle seats so be sure to request one if it will help you.


Be prepared if you are flying. For example you can learn how to disassemble and reassemble your wheelchair for transport, or locate a reliable wheelchair repair business at your destination just in case it's needed.


At the Airport

Arrive early and make certain you get a gate check tag during check in. This tag attached to your chair, lets the ground crew know to bring your chair to the gate when your plane arrives, rather than to the baggage claim area. Airline personnel, gate and flight attendants have a lot of power and a lot of leeway, so it helps if you can get them on your side.
You will generally be the first to board the plane and the last to disembark, although flight personnel may ask if you wish to disembark before or after the other passengers. If you use a fold up manual wheelchair you can request that it be stowed in the on board coat closet, if the plane has one, but this is purely at the discretion of the flight crew and space may not always be available.


Transport of Wheelchairs

All electric chairs must be stowed as checked luggage so it is important to minimise the possibility of damage during transit. Remove seat cushions and any other parts that could easily become separated. Disconnect and remove any battery wires that may be visible to the ground crew. They have been known to remove them before they load the chair into the cargo hold. For transporting ease airlines much prefer gel or dry cell batteries to traditional acid filled ones.


Some disassembly may be required for transport so it may be a good idea to attach some "how-to" instructions to your chair. It will be reassembled at the other end by a different ground crew who may not be experienced in such procedures.


If you are unable to walk from your wheelchair to your seat in the aircraft, you'll transfer to a carry-on or aisle chair for the trip down the aisle.
You can't ride your chair onto the plane - it simply won't fit. An aisle chair is a tall, skinny, high-backed chair designed to fit down the narrow aisle of an aircraft. It has retaining straps to hold you in and is quite stable. Even so it might be a good idea to take your own leg strap just in case you need to strap your legs into the chair.


Most planes are fitted with some aisle seating that has a movable or lift up armrest. This enables an easier transfer from the aisle chair. If you require assistance transferring to the plane seat, take responsibility for yourself and tell the staff how to help you. The staff are often helpful and well trained but you are always safer not assuming anything.

If an aisle seat was requested but not allocated, ask the cabin crew to swap your seat for another.


During the Flight

Some aircraft have a privacy curtain that includes the aisle to allow a companion to assist you. Bear in mind not all aircraft have disabled facilities in their rest rooms. Ask the reservations person for as much information about the facilities on the type of plane you will be flying on.
Some newer, wide body jets have one accessible rest room. On the 747-400 the rest room has outward swinging doors and handrails which will allow the aisle chair. Doors on the 767-300 can be swung and clipped into position to double the available space. The 747-300/767-200s all have outward swinging doors. Confirm they will have an aisle chair if required.



Some airlines may offer a free ticket for carers of support workers flying with you. However this may only apply if you pay full fare and thus negate any saving. Still it doesn't hurt to try for a discount ticket. Enjoy your flight!

This article has been adapted from the Civil Aviation Authority's website at with their permission.



Our partners