Reply To: Boston/San Antonio with Power Chair on Southwest

  • Josh Grisdale

    June 20, 2018 at 12:09 pm


    I have flown a lot but still worry about my power wheelchair! So I totally understand your friend’s feelings.

    Unless it is a small plane with limited cargo space, it should be fine without removing anything.  I assume your friend sent the wheelchair dimensions to the airline?  If she did and they didn’t say anything about the size then it should be OK.  (Once I flew on a smaller plane and had to tilt the backrest since the cargo space was too low for it in its regular size.)

    While she may not need to remove anything, she may want to remove some parts.  I generally take off my footrests and headrest because they are the most easily broken parts and for some reason everyone wants to grab those areas when lifting the wheelchair!  After taking them off, I have them taped to the seat of the wheelchair.

    I cannot speak for Southwest, but in Japan they bubble-wrap the controller area for extra protection.  She may want to take some bubble-wrap with her in case the airline dosn’t have any.

    Some other tips:

    • After I transfer from my wheelchair to the airline one, I make a point of taking pictures of the wheelchair before giving it to the airline.  This is an “insurance policy” so that if something does happen, the airline cannot claim “it was already like that”.  Bonus points for including staff in the picture. 😀
    • I like to insist on watching the staff prep the wheelchair and remind them of its importance to me (its my only way to move!) and the price of the wheelchair.  Often staff are busy trying to just get things done that they forget the value an item can have.  Reminding them it costs thousands of dollars often encourages to take more time protecting it.
    • I’m a worry-wart, but I always look up a place that can repair the wheelchair at my destination.  In the worst case scenario, it is comforting to know who to call.  If something goes wrong have the airline call the company immediately.  She may want to contact the dealer/repair shop in advance to let them know her chair type and when she’ll be in the area.  I just found this one that does repairs on Pride wheelchairs in San Antonio –  (Be sure the wheelchair is insured!)

    Sorry to sound a bit negative! But, as a worrier, I find that being over-protective of my wheelchair, and thinking of what I will do in the worst case scenario actually helps me worry less.

    Finally, I have flown a lot and rarely have had a problem.  Actually the last time I did have an issue was nearly 20 years ago!  Airlines have gotten SO much better!  Your friend should be fine.  Please keep us updated!

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