Flight Guests with Disabilities/ Limitations for Elderly Passengers

What you should know to help prepare for the flight Flight Guests with Disabilities/ Limitations for Elderly Passengers


Flight Guests with Disabilities/ Limitations for Elderly Passengers

Aviation laws exist that prohibit any form of discrimination against the disabled or elderly, and the policy of most airlines today is to make air travel for such persons as accessible as possible. Assistance in boarding and disembarkation is only a small part of the service designed to ensure the comfort of all passengers. With prior notice, airlines will endeavour to make flying a pleasant and hassle-free journey for anyone who would otherwise experience difficulties in doing so. Cabin crews are well trained in ensuring that a flight will cause no undue distress to persons who must rely on others for their comfort.

Notifying an Airline

Passengers with limited mobility should inform an airline well in advance of a flight of any special equipment aids on which they are reliant. It is also important that the airline know whether the disabled or elderly passenger will be travelling alone; in which case they will provide someone to assist where necessary. Passengers who require oxygen equipment or a service dog must make prior arrangements with the airline, and it is recommended that this be done at least 72 hours before a flight in order for the airline to accommodate these needs. Special medications administered by syringe or a diabetes pump must also be declared and properly documented to assist airport security personnel.

Airline Obligations

An airline will require an assisted passenger to arrive at least an hour earlier than usual so that screening of all assistive equipment and medications can be accomplished without causing a flight delay. Manual screening will be done when it is known that some devices may malfunction after subjection to body scanners. Airlines do not relax their security measures for the sake of those with limited mobility or illness, but every effort will be made to ensure it is done efficiently and without undue stress. It is then the airlines responsibility to assist the passenger to board safely where an alerted cabin crew will do whatever possible to assist the passenger during the flight and on disembarkation.

In-flight assistance

Passengers with limited mobility should endeavour, wherever possible, to book flights on a double-aisle aircraft as this gives greater accessibility for wheelchairs in getting to toilet facilities. If prior arrangements have been made then an aisle chair will be provided. Flight attendants will assist disabled persons to the toilet facilities, but are not required to offer assistance inside the facility. In-flight information regarding safety and security or any instructions specific to that flight will be relayed to passengers who have visual or hearing disabilities in a clear and timeous manner; any assistance in complying with instructions will also be given. Although flight attendants may not feed passengers, they can assist in the opening and cutting of food items


If travelling alone, then disabled or elderly passengers will be assisted in the transition from aircraft through all airport checkpoints and onto connecting flights where applicable; baggage will be dealt with appropriately. If no connecting flight is involved, then in many cases an airline will ensure that the disabled or elderly flight guest will be safely escorted to their place of residence.

There is no age limit for persons wishing to fly. Although airlines may not exclude a disabled or elderly person from flying, they do have the right to refuse passage to anyone posing a danger to others or to the flight itself. In such a case the decision would have to be justified by the airline in writing. Seating may also not be determined by the physical condition of a passenger with the exception of the exit sections necessary to seat those able to perform emergency functions. Regulations regarding aircraft provisions for the ease of the disabled or elderly when flying have been added to encompass the newer aircraft designs. These are dependent on the number of seats available on the aircraft and whether it has single or twin aisles. In short, new aircraft designs will include standardised facilities that will make air travel far more comfortable and convenient for every passenger regardless of age or ability.

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