When booking a flight, it is important for passengers to notify the airline of any wheelchair assistance or other special service needs. Requests can be made over the phone or, in some cases, via the web. In recent years, airlines have made it easier to identify a special assistance need during the booking process, but passengers may still have questions about what to expect.
If you are planning to take an airplane flight, make sure to check-out the Wheelchair User’s Guide to Air Travel, which answers many of the most frequently asked questions about flying with a disability.
At American Airlines, web requests for wheelchair or other assistance must be made during the booking process, prior to making payment. There is presently no way to add a request to an existing booking via the airline’s website. If you forget to request services during when purchasing your ticket online or if your assistance needs change, you’ll have to notify the airline via phone or at the airport. That’s a bummer, but it is a fairly minor issue that I have asked the airline to correct and they are aware of it.
Typically, once you submit a request for assistance via the web, that’s all you need to do and the airline will not request any additional information.
American Airlines goes one step further, however. The airline has established a dedicated team to look after disabled passengers before their trip and to answer any questions. In most cases, about 24 hours after a passenger books a flight and attaches a request for disability assistance, a member of this team will call to confirm the request, provide relevant information and answer any questions.
These Special Assistance Coordinators can be of enormous help to passengers who have not traveled previously, or whose assistance needs may have changed.
One example of a particularly good use case concerns passengers traveling with a power wheelchair or scooter. The size of the airplane cargo hold varies by aircraft type, and some wheelchairs may be too big to fit on certain airplanes. The Special Assistance Coordinator will ask passengers to provide the dimensions of their mobility devices, so that any issues with a wheelchair’s size can be identified well in advance. In some cases, the airline may be able to offer an alternate flight on a more suitable aircraft.
Information is the greatest barrier to accessible travel and, while all airlines need to provide more detailed information about the accessible air travel experience, American Airlines has done good by making it a policy to proactively call passengers who request disability assistance. It’s a fantastic initiative and one that I hope other airlines will adopt.
If you would like to discuss your future American Airlines trip with one of the airline’s Special Assistance Coordinators, you can call +1 (800) 237-7976 between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Central Time.
Featured image courtesy American Airlines.
Has American Airlines or any other airline (proactively) called you to discuss your special assistance request? Let me know in the comments below!