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Special assistance advice

4 replies

Sportbilly · 01/03/2020 18:58

Hi all. My partner is Polish and we plan to fly out to Poland in July to celebrate our sons first birthday.

My mum is 74 years old and has never flown in her life, but really would like to fly and come with us.

Whilst she has no disability as such her movement is very bad and standing and walking for any period of time is difficult for her.

Does anybody know anything about special assistance at airports please? Do you need to book this with the airline or airport and when do you need to do it please? Can a lady with no actual disability use special assistance?

What actually happens for those with any experience please, and does it make lofe easier for somebody with poor mobility?

Final question is around the flight itself. I am worried it will out a strain on my mums health, however, she insists she would like to try flying. Am I overly worrying (as plenty of older people fly all the time)?

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Funf · 01/03/2020 20:01

Ring or write to the airports and airlines, FIL is partially sighted and the staff looked after him and the MIL at both ends until we met them

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BarbaraofSeville · 02/03/2020 10:03

You book it with the airline when you book your flight. There's a box to tick when you add the passenger name.

You need to tell the airline what help you need and will be able to book a wheelchair or ride on trolley to take her through the airport, but think about whether she will be able to walk up and down the steps herself, or whether she needs to go up in the cherry picker type device if the flight doesn't have an air bridge (if you are going on a budget airline like Ryanair, they rarely have air bridges in my experience).

They don't ask for any proof of disability and wouldn't quibble about providing assistance to an elderly person with poor mobility.

I don't know about whether a longer flight would be bad for your mum, but you can fly to somewhere like the Isle of Man, Dublin or Belfast for the day for not very much if you just want to have a go on a plane.

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Pollaidh · 02/03/2020 18:18

Go into the online booking, or contact the airline. Consider what help she will need - the options are usually (1) wheelchair to gate, in reality if there is an airbridge you will be taken right to the aircraft door (2) wheelchair to plane - if she would struggle with stairs. In this case they bring a kind of external lift to the plane and take you down on that, then wheelchair, (3) wheelchair to seat. It sounds like she would need (1) or (2).

I would warn you that there are certain gaps in the service, which, especially if she's travelling alone and not confident in airports, could be problematic. The sticking points are:

  • Getting from any public transport or carpark to check in. Usually you need to queue to check-in and that can be too much.
  • Once special assistance have picked you up, you'll get through security etc.
  • Make sure she takes food. Often you get dumped in a waiting area far from toilets or cafes...
  • Being forgotten. Unfortunately this has happened to me many times. Different airports have different quality of service. Heathrow is a fucking nightmare. Whereas most regional airports, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh and foreign airports have been pretty good.


An elderly person with poor mobility would be accepted no problem. If you're young and don't "look" disabled sometimes they quibble. I'm looking at you, Heathrow, again.

If you are flying with your mum, then the issues about being forgotten are much less, and you may be able to push her airport wheelchair some of the way yourself. Some airports won't allow more than 1 person to accompany her, so your family might need to split up.
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helpfulperson · 02/03/2020 20:23

If your mum is fairly generally mobile, can walk a short distance, can manage a few stairs if given time etc I would go for the option of borrowing an airport wheelchair. This opened up all the special lanes at security, passport control, use of lifts etc without being tied to airport staff and the risks around not being able to get into cafes or getting forgotten etc. Airport wheelchairs are so easy to push in my experience.

I was also amazed at how much non-airport people helped, let us through, moved chairs in café's and in one memorable case took it upon himself to clear us a path to the start of the accessible passport lane when it was very busy and fraught.

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