Boston/San Antonio with Power Chair on Southwest

  • Boston/San Antonio with Power Chair on Southwest

    Posted by indulgetnvoyagestraveldesigner on June 20, 2018 at 11:11 am

    I have a friend that has a powerchair.  She’s never flown before and has the chair specially set-up for her.  She’s afraid they’re going to have to take some of it apart.
    Does anyone have any insight about this, specifically for Southwest Airlines?  She’ll be flying from Boston to San Antonio.  She has a Pride Mobility Quantum 6 Edge powerchair.  She’s alerted the airline but she is worried about her chair.  Thanks!

    Josh Grisdale replied 5 years, 11 months ago 6 Members · 18 Replies
  • 18 Replies
  • 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!

  • Unknown Member

    June 20, 2018 at 10:39 pm

    Southwest Airlines flies all 737 planes and they general fit your standard size power chairs. That being said if your friend is traveling with a chair that is oversized they may have to turn the chair on its side in order to get it through the cargo doors. If this is the case I would recommend removing any pieces that stick out from the chair or are meant to be removable as they are generally the first pieces to get damaged.

    Josh had a very good ideal above in regard to bubble wrapping the joystick as this is a small piece and runs the chair. This can get damaged if something else is pushed in the cargo bay against the chair.

    Something that Cory Lee suggest is to write up a “how to” for your chair and tape it to the chair. This paper would give your contact details and give the staff instructions on how to operate the chair. Cory Lee has on his blog the sheet he has written up for his chair. Might be good to reference his if your considering a similar instruction piece.

    Hope your friend has a successful flight!

    • sheri19a

      June 21, 2018 at 4:03 am

      Would you have a link to Cory Lee’s form you’re referring to?

  • sheri19a

    June 21, 2018 at 3:43 am

    Hi I’m that friend that Celeste is inquiring for  🙂  Thank you Celeste and Thanks everyone for the tips. Would anyone have contact info for a helpful department at Southwest. That could answer questions about my chair, after I give exact details about my chair and get an answer on my chair specifically? My chair is oversized I believe…it’s 41 inches High without the headrest and 33 inches wide. It weighs approx. 250 lbs because of all the customized parts and tilt/recline.

  • indulgetnvoyagestraveldesigner

    June 21, 2018 at 7:25 am

    Thank you for all your information, it’s very thorough and helpful.  Where would one go to find insurance for a power chair?  Are there specific insurance companies or is it a rider on renters or homeowners insurance?

  • lemadelinot68

    June 21, 2018 at 11:08 am

    Bonjour,  I always bring my joystick with me in the plane and bring some extra parts like: 1 front wheel ready to use, 1 extra front wheel tube, 1 back wheel tire and 1 back wheel tube. It doesn’t take much space and it can save your trip if you are in a remote area. I have experienced a front wheel “explosion” in a small museum in a region near Marrakech…  without that wheel I would have been stuck for a couple of days for sure. But in the US I’m sure you can find a wheel easily.



  • Josh Grisdale

    June 21, 2018 at 2:27 pm

    Hi,  good idea about bringing spare parts @LeMadelinot68!

    I don’t know if there is international insurance.  I think you buy travel insurance from your local insurance provider.  I live in Japan and when I traveled to Canada I bought travel insurance from a Japanese company to cover me in Canada.

  • sheri19a

    June 22, 2018 at 11:40 am

    I’ve bee told by Southwest that they may have to put chair it’s side to get it into the cargo doors….I asked if it would be possible to put the back in recline to get it in.  He thought that was a good idea. My question is….I’ll have to raise the cantilever arm rests up making an already unstable armrest more unstable. IS there any way or the best way I could stabilize the arm rests?


  • sheri19a

    June 22, 2018 at 11:51 am

    front overall

  • Josh Grisdale

    June 23, 2018 at 7:12 am

    I asked Southwest on Twitter and just got a link to this page:

    I would be cautious about putting it on its side without removing the batteries… They are likely sealed but may leak.  Also, it would put pressure on parts of the wheelchair not designed to take pressure (ie armrests) and may bend it.  If possible i think tilting is best, but not sure about armrests.  Can they be removed and put on the seat and taped there?

    You may want to do a few trial runs at home first…

  • sheri19a

    June 24, 2018 at 12:06 am

    Thank you Josh. I had seen that but it doesn’t really talk about details of their procedure, so I’d like to go prepared with how to proceed with what they tell me the day of. I really want to find a way not NOT remove the armrests…there is now simple way to remove cantilever armrests…they are bolted down at the back end. It would be hard to reattach at the same spot and then the controls would have to taken off witch then would have to take off the entire back casing to unplug them. It’s possible if I HAVE to but time consuming at the very least. If I can direct them on how to use seat recline and stablize the arm would be ideal and I will campaign for that.  But that still leaves me with the dilemma of stabalizing the arm.

    I’m sure once I figure this all out…The next trip will be sooo much less stressful. I do appreciate all suggestions and insight from everyone. Thank you.

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