PASSENGERS WITH A WHEELCHAIR
Before the flight
It is possible to travel with a wheelchair on all of Aero Airlines and Finnair flights. No excess baggage charge is levied for a wheelchair. We require information about a passenger travelling with a wheelchair when the flight is booked, so that we can properly anticipate the need to provide help at different stages of the journey. Information about a passenger’s need for assistance during his or her journey is conveyed through the reservation system to airline and airport staff. Some airlines require that they receive information about the need for special assistance at the latest 48 hours before the flight departure, so that they can ensure the availability of such assistance.
The airline needs in advance, for example, the following information about passengers who use wheelchairs and about their wheelchairs:
- Will the passenger take his or her own wheelchair along on the journey?
- Is the wheelchair manual or electrically powered, and is the chair foldable?
- Is the power source a dry or wet battery? We also need instructions for removing the battery, if the customer has problems communicating on account of language or other reasons.
- The dimensions of the wheelchair when folded (length x width x height).
- Is the passenger travelling alone or is he or she accompanied e.g. by a helper?
- Does the passenger need help to push the wheelchair or is he or she able to manage all the way from check-in to the departure gate?
- Can the passenger transfer from wheelchair to aircraft seat independently or does he or she need assistance or a lifting chair?
- Does the passenger need help on stairs even though he or she is able to walk short distances on a level surface?
- Would the passenger prefer to sit on one side of the aisle rather than the other due to impaired mobility?
- Will the passenger also have some other medical/technical equipment along on the journey?
- A person, who is escorting for example a passenger with reduced mobility on a flight, receives a discount from the air fare on flights within Finland. The escort may return on the next possible flight, or together with the person he or she is escorting, or only fly one-way.
At the airport
At check-in it is a good idea to check that all of the information in the check-in system is correct. Missing information can be given and incorrect information can be put right before the journey starts. Baggage, including the wheelchair, should be tagged with baggage labels. It’s worth remembering that airlines compensate for damage that happens to baggage on a kilo basis, so it is recommended that the passenger has adequate travel insurance cover for the wheelchair.
Staff will assist the passenger from check-in to the aircraft, if the passenger wishes such help. At Helsinki-Vantaa Airport a friend or family member may accompany a passenger sitting in a wheelchair as far as the departure gate by obtaining permission to do so from the check-in desk. In this way the chaperone can provide assistance e.g. in shops, restaurants and with visits to the toilet.
The guiding rule is that the passenger should remain in the wheelchair for as long as possible, preferably up to the door of the aircraft, from where he or she will be assisted, or carried in a lifting chair, on to the aircraft. The passenger’s own wheelchair will be stowed in the hold. At some airports, and particularly where electrically powered wheelchairs are concerned, the practice varies, however. For safety reasons, and due to the location of the lifts/stairs in the airport buildings, the wheelchair must be transferred down to the baggage hall at an earlier stage. In such cases the passenger is often transferred to an airport wheelchair at check-in, and the passenger’s own chair is taken at this stage into the baggage hall.
Passengers requiring special assistance are, as a rule, taken on to the aircraft before the other passengers, so that staff can help them in peace and quiet and check what assistance the passengers need during the flight without the other passengers overhearing what may be very personal matters. Thus it is advisable to arrive at the gate in good time, at the latest by the boarding time indicated on the boarding pass.
During the flight
All medication required during the entire trip should be packed into hand baggage. If the passenger needs help in taking medication, eating, visiting the toilet, getting up or communicating in a way that differs from normal, he or she must be accompanied by a helper, because in these instances the airline cannot provide assistance during the flight, except for lifting help at the airport.
An effort is always made to arrange a seat according to the passenger’s wishes. Passengers with reduced mobility cannot, however, be seated at emergency exits, nor can they obstruct the movement of the other passengers from their seats. Passengers with reduced mobility are allocated in advance a seat which has an armrest that can be raised and is, wherever possible, next to the aisle to enable easier transfer to and from a wheelchair/lifting chair. If the aircraft is full, passengers with reduced mobility must sit in a window seat, so that they do not obstruct the movement of the other passengers from their seats.
After the flight
The departure airport sends a message to the destination, so that the personnel there can come to meet and assist the passenger. Passengers with reduced mobility are helped from the aircraft last, when there is more space to help, and assistance can be given in peace and quiet. Staff will help the passenger to the arrival hall and to the person who is meeting them or to their next mode of transportation (connecting flight, taxi, bus).
Travelling as a group
When several passengers who use wheelchairs are departing on the same flight, the receipt of advance information is even more important, so that sufficient time and personnel can be allocated for special assistance at the various stages of the journey, and to ensure that there is definitely enough room in the hold of the aircraft for all of the wheelchairs. In view of passenger safety, there is a specified number of passengers requiring special assistance that can be taken on to the same flight. If it is necessary to exceed this number of passengers, the total number of accompanying assistants, the precise nature of the need for assistance, and whether the aircraft can carry all of the wheelchairs, must be clarified.
When a group of more than five passengers with wheelchairs are travelling, we will take this into account by trying whenever possible to position the aircraft at a passenger loading bridge, which will facilitate boarding. We can also, if necessary, conduct a separate group check-in in advance. The customer should ask for confirmation of these and other advance measures either via the travel agency concerned or from the airline itself.
We have developed our service for passengers with reduced mobility in cooperation with various disability organizations. The development work is continual process as technology develops and even better equipment is introduced to aid our work. Customer feedback also provides us with valuable information, which we utilize in our training and in guidelines such as these.