Air Travel With a Walker: A Guide
Air travel can seem daunting for many reasons, especially when considering the need for travel related mobility accommodations. Assistive devices, like walkers, have certain regulations that need to be accounted for before a passenger can come on board. Knowing the rules for packing and traveling with walkers can be extremely useful in this sense, so follow this guide to learn more. As always, if you find barriers or have suggestions please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know so that we can improve!
What is the best way to travel with my walker?
One option is to check the walker in with your luggage before you take off. You shouldn’t need to pay to check in your walker – this is a service that should be provided to you by the airline. If you choose to check in your walker, be sure to tie down any parts of the walker that fold down to reduce the chance of damage, and get to the airport early enough in case of delays.
Sometimes the airport may have ties for you to use, like zip ties or luggage tape, to tie some of the parts of the walker down. Please keep in mind that you will need scissors to remove these sorts of ties, which may be difficult to obtain in the airport setting. It may be in your best interest to use something that is easier to remove, such as a carabiner, velcro straps, or a rope/tie. For more specific tips on how to check in your walker, check out the website linked here.
Please also be aware that if you are checking in your walker, the airline must provide you with a wheelchair and an assistant so that you can get on and off the plane. If you have an assistant that can help you get onboard, but do not have an assistant at your destination that can help you get off the plane, then the airline must promptly provide you with an assistant, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. In this case, they will assign you an employee and wheelchair to help you get off the plane and continue your travel journey.
If your walker is small enough and can fold down, you may also consider bringing it with you on the plane and placing it in the overhead compartment, or gate-checking it. Gate-checking allows passengers to check in luggage, strollers, or assistive devices right at the gate, and may be ideal for when you have a long layover and want to move around. Simply request that your walker be returned to you on the jet way of your destination instead of baggage claim.
Gate-checking has an advantage over placing your walker in the overhead compartment, as there is less of a chance that heavy luggage will be placed on top of your walker and damage it. However, it may also be a good idea to buy a case for your walker to further prevent the threat of damage from others. We have found a highly rated case meant for transporting a walker, which can be accessed by clicking on the link here.
What are my rights when traveling with a walker?
Regardless of the assistive device that you are using, you possess certain rights according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which affirms that discrimination against those with disabilities is completely illegal. The Air Carrier Access Act continues this sentiment, by stating that anyone with a disability is entitled to assistance in the context of air travel, free of charge. The airline cannot require you to pay for the wheelchair service or assistant that they provide if you check in your walker. Also, if you are bringing your walker or other mobility devices with you onto the plane, your adaptive technology takes priority over other passengers’ luggage and belongings.
If you feel that you have been discriminated against when traveling, please file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation. You, like any passenger on the plane, deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. To write a complaint, please click on the link here.
Where should I go if I have more questions?
The first thing you can do is to check the TSA website, linked here, on information that they have about bringing walkers and other similar assistive devices. The site may provide answers to questions you have about what to bring, screening, and more. If you feel that this is not enough, call your airline and discuss more specific concerns.
Major Airlines with Phone Numbers for Airline Accessibility
American Airlines - 800-237-7976
United Airlines - 1-800-228-2744
Delta Airlines - 404-209-3434
Southwest Airlines - 1-800-435-9792
Lufthansa - 1-800-645-3880