The Most Accommodating Airlines for People with Disabilities
People with impairments want to know the most accommodating airlines for domestic and international travel. When it comes to air travel, people with disabilities need an airline that has trained personnel to assist them through the terminals, sufficient space to accommodate the width of their assistive devices, and more time for situating themselves aboard the aircraft. Navigating while traveling is already a challenge, but for someone who has an impairment or disability, air travel can become nearly impossible.
When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) came into play, public and private businesses faced laws that demanded accommodations for men and women with impairments. Unfortunately, many airlines lag behind. The Open Doors Organization and the Travel Industry Association of America reported that 72% of adults with disabilities dealt with major problems with airlines while 65% complained about issues with the airports.
Two Major Problems for Travelers with Disabilities
Wheelchair Damage and Delay
A significant issue that many people with disabilities face is the mismanagement of their assistive devices, such as their wheelchairs. Often, the wheelchairs are returned damaged and after a long wait. This means that travelers with disabilities are forced to wait longer, and then they must deal with a damaged device.
Aircraft Lavatory Use
Most airplanes do not have wide enough aisles to accommodate a wheelchair. Moreover, the aircraft lavatory is often narrow as well. It’s considered accessible if it has call buttons and grab bars. No standards are created for specific dimensions to allow a lavatory to be accessible by a person with a disability who needs to use the lavatory while navigating the aircraft’s onboard wheelchair. This means that many people with disabilities must refrain from using the restroom for hours until they land.
Best Airlines for People with Disabilities
Those with disabilities often have to discover the most accommodating airlines through trial and error, which can be a harsh learning curve. However, some travelers with impairments take the time to share their experiences and their favorite airlines. This can be invaluable information for travelers who manage wheelchairs and need extra assistance.
Quality care from airline attendants can make a huge difference for travelers who use a wheelchair and travel frequently. JetBlue airline attendants have a notable record of being receptive and helpful with the needs of travelers who deal with disabilities.
If you’re traveling with JetBlue, contact them ahead of time to discuss any extra needs you may have for traveling. JetBlue works to make your flight and travel comfortable, but they can do better if they have plenty of time to prepare. Moreover, JetBlue provides airport wheelchair services at all airports, and the airline offers specially-designed wheelchairs for boarding and deplaning.
One of the benefits of Southwest is the ability to board early and choose the most accessible seat. Most other airlines have designated seating, but Southwest allows travelers to choose their seats based on their boarding times. This type of choice is helpful to travelers with disabilities.
Upon arriving to fly with Southwest, inform a Southwest personnel of your need for assistance so the request can be filled promptly. Priority pre-boarding is also available for individuals who need to stow an assistive device. A pre-boarding document can be requested at the customer service desk. The airline also provides a small wheelchair for boarding and deplaning and is equipped with a slide board and transfer sling. Southwest also checks most assistive devices, but most aircraft have room for one collapsible wheelchair onboard.
Some travelers with disabilities have preferred flying with American Airlines because it tends to be the procedure that the head flight attendant would introduce themselves, promising to be available in case of emergency. While this is not always the case anymore, that human touch has gained the confidence of many travelers with impairments.
Upon making a travel reservation with American Airlines, make your assistive needs known, and upon arrival at the airport and check-in, remind them of those requests. American Airlines provides assistance to the departure gate and during connection. Onboard, flight attendants have access to an onboard wheelchair, and the aircraft have a designated area with seats that have movable aisle armrests. American Airlines also checks most wheelchairs.
When flying international, travelers with disabilities often choose British Airways because their sensitivity and willingness to assist is better than most. The aircraft comes with onboard wheelchairs, and the aircraft for longer flights also include an accessible bathroom that fits the onboard wheelchair. This makes the difficult process of using the bathroom a lot easier. British Airways also checks wheelchairs, but they crate the wheelchairs, meaning that they rarely suffer damage.
British Airways is better equipped to offer assistance when notified soon after a reservation has been booked. In some cases, they will work with the airport to ensure that the appropriate service is provided. The airline offers four areas of care, but they also require that in some situations a traveler with disabilities has a companion.
This airline sets itself apart from other airlines by providing specific services for travelers who have low vision, hearing loss, or mental disabilities. This thorough support allows travelers of varying abilities to travel alone. Virgin Atlantic also has limited services for travelers who use assistive devices for mobility, and their aircraft for longer flights include bathrooms with enough room for an onboard wheelchair. Service animals are also welcome to travel in the cabin.
Virgin Atlantic provides a full page of services for travelers with impairments. For assistance, they prefer to hear your needs at least 48 hours in advance of the scheduled departure if not more. Specifically, they request more time for providing assistance to individuals with service animals.
While many airlines and airports are seeking to provide more training for their personnel and more options for assistance for travelers with disabilities, these airlines are often commended for being better than most. Companies who take the time to care for this demographic of travelers will not only build their reputation but also find a faithful following.
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