Travel Tips for Amputees Part 3: At the Gate and In the Air

I’ve made good progress getting my life back after amputation. One of the things that had me apprehensive though, was the idea of travelling. In particular, travelling by air. My wife and I enjoy travelling together. It’s also not uncommon for me to travel for work a few times a year. I had a rhythm when I travelled by air and was quite the pro at the routine. Could I get that rhythm back?

Since September, I’ve been to Edinburgh, Montreal, San Diego and then back again to Montreal. All those flights, hotel stays, and trips through security now behind me, I am a lot more confident. Thanks to a bit of planning and lots of good tips from other amputees, I have my road warrior rhythm back again.

Having survived my adventures, I thought I’d off a bit of a follow up to our last blog on travel.

Now that you’ve made it through security, you are at the gate and ready for your flight. A lot of the hassle is behind you, but there are still a couple of things left to keep in mind.

Boarding The Aircraft

If you use a wheelchair for support, you can use your own chair to get to the gate. You won’t, however, be able to take it on board with you. It has to be gate checked, but airlines have transfer chairs that fit down the aisle if you need it to board the plane. The same would apply for a rollator or walker.

If you use crutches, or a cane you may use those devices to board and store them in the overhead bin. Crutches and canes do not have to be gate checked like wheelchairs or other large assistive devices.

We all need a little extra time to get settled, so wheelchair or not, take advantage of the pre-boarding call for people needing extra time and assistance. I personally expose my prosthetic to avoid unnecessary conversation about it with other passengers, but it’s definitely not a requirement. If gate agents push back because they can’t visibly observe a disability, they aren’t actually allowed to ask you to prove it.  If you are comfortable with saying so, politely let them know you wear a prosthesis and need some extra time.

On Board and In Flight

Some people choose to remove their prosthesis for the flight. You could do this for the entire flight and store your prosthesis in overhead storage, or just remove it between the initial ascent and before the final descent. The cabin pressure and general climate of an aircraft may affect the volume of your residual limb, so keep your shrinker close by if you do remove your prosthesis.

If you need assistance while in flight, the crew is there to help you. If you’ve stowed your leg and aren’t able to retrieve it on your own, the crew will be able to assist you with that.  Just keep in mind there are times during the flight that this may mean waiting until the crew is available.

Keep moving, especially on longer flights

If your flight is longer than a couple of hours, it’s important to get up an moving from time to time.  This will help keep your circulation going and avoid complications such as blood clots or excess swelling. A quick walk to the lavatory and back a handful of times should do the trick. Just be sure to comply with seatbelt signs and try to avoid food and beverage service when you take your walk.

Leaving the Aircraft

If you used a transfer chair to board the aircraft, you’ll be waiting while other passengers clear the cabin. You’ll have to be a bit patient with this process. Transferring you off the aircraft isn’t going to work when other passengers are scrambling to get their carry-on and head up the ramp. All going as planned, though, your own wheelchair will be waiting for you on the ramp when you leave the aircraft.

Now that you’re at your destination, it’s time to head for ground transportation and continue your adventure! Stay tuned, another post is coming to talk about the Amputee Road Warrior and hotel stays while travelling abroad.

Hope you enjoyed our third installment of Travel Tips for Amputees

If you’ve missed our Travel Tips for Amputees 1 & 2 see links below.
Going Somewhere? Travel Tips for Amputees Part 1: Before the Trip
Going Somewhere? Travel Tips for Amputees Part 2: The TSA

Amputee Coalition of Toronto welcomes all amputees in Toronto and the surrounding
GTA to join our support group for more information on monthly meetups, upcoming events, and a safe space to share your journey.
We’re in this together!

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