Travelling with mobility and medical equipment

If you use an electric mobility aid such as an electric wheelchair or scooter, you will need to give the airline some information in advance about the equipment, including its make and model. This is to ensure that it is loaded and stowed safely during the flight and is not a fire risk.

Check before you book if the airline has restrictions relating to equipment – these can vary depending on who you fly with.

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.

This will help if there are any issues with loading your equipment into the hold.

You may carry up to two mobility items free of charge. This applies generally to your trip rather than just the flight, so if there is something specific that you will need at your destination the airline should accept it as one of the two pieces of mobility equipment (provided that it is a reasonable request).

Special Assistance

If you’re a passenger with a disability or reduced mobility you are legally entitled to support, commonly known as ‘Special Assistance’, when travelling by air.

This means airports and airlines must provide help and assistance, which is free of charge and helps ensure you have a less stressful journey.

You should ask for special assistance either when you book, or at least 48 hours before travel, whether it is through a travel agent, tour operator or airline. This information will then be passed to the airport and the service provider.

If you don’t give advance notice, you could experience delays and may not receive the service that you need.

Special assistance is available to passengers who may need help to travel, such as the elderly, those people with a physical disability, such as wheelchair users, and those who have difficulty with social interaction and communication, such as those with autism or dementia.

Your right to special assistance is stipulated in UK law and applies when:

  • You fly on any airline from a UK airport
  • You fly on an EU or UK registered airline to a UK airport
  • You fly from outside of the UK or EU to the EU on a UK carrier

Help is available from the moment you arrive at an airport and can cover:

  • Your journey through your departure airport
  • Boarding the aircraft and during the flight
  • Disembarking the aircraft
  • Transferring between flights
  • Travelling through your destination airport.

You will need to find out how to request special assistance help. Airlines, travel agents and tour operators should provide a free method of requesting assistance when you book (or at a later stage). You may be asked about special assistance during the booking process, but this isn’t standard practice, so you may need to make a request.

If you are booking on a website, look out for a special assistance link for information on getting the type of help you need.

Your travel service provider may ask you to telephone them or their agent or complete a web form. Many airlines provide a Freephone or local rate number for you to call to notify them of your assistance needs. Some airlines also offer a free call-back option.

You must be clear about the type of help that you need. This will help avoid delays and ensure that you receive appropriate support. Many airports also provide additional information tailored specifically to people with hidden disabilities.

This could include:

  • Transfer from a designated point, such as a car park or bus stop, to the terminal building
  • The use of an airport wheelchair to get to the gate
  • Extra help getting through security searches
  • Assistance with boarding the aircraft and getting seated
  • Specific seats on the aircraft

In addition, airlines will need to know:

  • If you are taking an electric mobility aid (e.g. an electric wheelchair or mobility scooter)
  • If your condition means that you need extra care and attention

 Questions that you may wish to consider in advance include:

  • Are on-board wheelchairs available on all aircraft? These are used to assist people to the toilet during the flight
  • What are the walking distances to departure gates? Airports should provide this information on their websites
  • Does the airport use air bridges or steps for passengers to board aircraft?
  • The number and type of accessible toilets at the airport and on-board aircraft
  • What restrictions (for example safety, weight, space, battery type) apply to the carriage of electric mobility aids
  • The airline’s policies on the carriage of oxygen
  • The airline’s policies concerning compensating for damaged mobility equipment
  • The types of seats available and how the airline allocates these
  • Restrictions on medication at security searches (especially relating to liquids).

When you arrive at the airport you should go to an assistance point. This can be inside or outside of the terminal. Before departure, special assistance staff can help you travel through the departure gate and onto the aircraft. They will also help you get to your seat and stow your carry-on bags if required. If you need extra help in the airport, including during security searches, airport special assistance desks can provide identification (lanyards, badges etc.) to people with hidden disabilities. 

On arrival at your destination airport, your wheelchair or mobility aid should be returned to you at the arrival gate unless there are extenuating reasons.

Depending on the country visited, you may be entitled to assistance through immigration, customs, baggage reclaim, and to the designated arrival point. This may include some car parks, train stations, drop off points.

Similar passenger rights apply in other countries, including the EU and the United States. However, there are many parts of the world where similar rights are not available, and assistance may require a fee or not be available at all.

Disclaimer: The content of this page has been provided by GOV.UK and are for general information only and subject to change without notice.