International medical transport: flying with mobility equipment

The help available for travellers using mobility equipment has improved in the past decade. EU laws mean that you have a right to special assistance when you fly on any airline from an EU airport, and when you fly on an EU-registered airline to an EU airport. But many passengers new to wheelchair use wonder what special assistance will mean in practice. As an international medical transport service: Here is our brief guide to flying with mobility equipment.

International medical transport flying with mobility equipment

Before the flight

By law your airline has to accept a certain number of mobility items on board a flight, but whether they can take yours depends on how many other passengers need them too. Airlines generally require 48 hours notice but may be able to accommodate you in a shorter time frame. You’ll need to leave your wheelchair at the gate so check that the airline can get you safely and comfortably into your airplane seat.

The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority recommends that before travelling you should:

  • Tell your airline the make, model, weight and size of your wheelchair.
  • Take the operating manual with you – this might be useful for the airline.
  • Let your airline know if your wheelchair is collapsible and provide details of how to assemble and disassemble it.
  • And make sure the airline staff bring your wheelchair directly to the gate at the end of the flight, rather than to the baggage claims area.

Storing your wheelchair on the flight

Crutches, walking aids and small, collapsible wheelchairs can be taken into the passenger cabin, but larger wheelchairs with batteries will need to be disassembled and stored in the hold. It’s important that you disconnect the battery and make sure the wires won’t short circuit before it’s put into the hold. You may need to remove the battery and store it in strong packaging in advance of the flight. Check with your airline if they have any specific requirements for your type of battery.

The airline may have a small onboard folding wheelchair that can take you to your seat. Ideally, at the end of the flight they should bring the wheelchair back to your seat and assist you off the plane to your waiting wheelchair. They may, however, insist you bring a friend to help you from your seat into the wheelchair.

What if I can’t take my wheelchair on the flight?

Sometimes it’s not possible to take your wheelchair onto a flight, or you may feel that it will simply be too difficult. Don’t worry – at EMS we specialise in international medical transport. We offer a range of services, namely by road using our ICU-equipped long distance ambulances or through the air, on a commercial flight with a medical escort, or on a dedicated air ambulance, and can safely get you to and from any location in the world.


If you would like to talk through your situation and find out about your options, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Alternatively, you can fill out our contact form to request a free quote – without any obligation – to get a clearer picture of what’s involved.

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