Discover your rights as a disabled passenger and discover our list of the best airlines to fly with for those travelling with a disability.
Recent years have seen great improvement in support offered by airlines to those travelling with a disability. However, travel rights vary considerably depending on which airline you choose, as well as the final destination of the flight.
Top Tip: We also have full guides covering lots of helpful topics, including:
Flying with a Hidden Disability
Flying with Emotional Support or Special Service Pets
Or, visit our Health and Mobility page to discover more helpful guides!
There are no worldwide uniform standards to regulate the provision of assistance for airline passengers traveling with disabilities.
All IATA (International Air Transport Association) member airlines need to comply with IATA resolution 700, (Acceptance and Carriage of Incapacited Passengers), however, the experience can be very different depending on the airline.
Depending on where an airline is flying, there are laws that help to govern the rights of those traveling with disabilities within the European Union and US:
Under the EU Regulation 1107/2006, all passengers flying with a disability, or reduced mobility, are legally entitled to support. This is commonly known as ‘Special Assistance’. Airports and airlines are required to provide help and assistance, free of charge.
Your right to special assistance as outlined in EU law applies when the following conditions are met:
If you fly on any airline from an EU airport
If you fly on an EU registered airline to an EU airport
Compared to US regulations, EU Regulation 1107/2006 divides the responsibilities and duties provided to those with a disability between both airport managing bodies and the air carriers. The help provided by your airline should include: boarding the aircraft and support during the flight, and help disembarking the aircraft.
The duties of airlines towards those traveling with disabilities is governed by the following regulation: U.S. Department of Transportation 14 CFR Part 382 (Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel). This regulation applies to all air carriers, whether U.S. or foreign, whose flight route either originate or terminate at a U.S. airport. This is irrespective of the point of origin of the flight.
14 CFR Part 382 says that the provision of accessibility services to people with reduced mobility is the sole responsibility of the air carrier.
Non European and Non U.S. air carriers that operate outside territories falling under the scope of DoT 14 CFR Part 382 and EU Regulation 1107/2006 may be subject to regulations specific to the country in which the air carrier originates from.
In most instances, passengers who want special assistance should aim to notify their airline with 48 hours notice if help will be required. If you have a disability or are traveling with someone with a disability, Alternative Airlines can help.
Alternative Airlines is a flight search website that offers full support through our expert customer service team. You can contact us to discuss your disability, and any additional needs you may require when traveling.
If you are completing the booking process, you can add information regarding your disability to the ‘Additional Requests’ section on the booking reservation. We will then pass this information on to airline.
It is important to choose the right airline, one with a good customer support reputation. Not every airline will go to the same extent to provide support. To help, we have composed a list of the best airlines for those flying with a disability, based on what the airline will provide passengers traveling with disabilities.
As well as airline reputation, it is also important to consider any frequent flyer status/ points you may have, as well as flight lengths and flight connections when looking at flight options as well. Remember, in the European Union, responsibility is also given to the airport management body to help provide support, but this is not the case elsewhere. It might also be worth taking a look at airport layouts and facilities as well as the airline you will be flying with.
Qantas is the flag carrier of Australia and has a great reputation. The airline says that it aims to be the airline of choice for passengers traveling with specific needs. The airline offers various types of assistance.
Advance Notice Period: If the following support will be needed, 48 hours of notice is required.
Restroom Facilities: All wide-bodied aircraft (A380, B744 and A330) have at least one fully wheelchair accessible toilet. Narrow-bodied aircraft (B737, B717, F100 and Dash 8 aircraft), don't have accessible toilets. Cabin crew can assist to and from the door of the aircraft toilet, but an assistant or carer is required if further help is required.
Onboard Wheelchairs: Onboard wheelchairs are available (with the exception of the 717, Fokker 100 and Dash 8 aircraft, due to cabin size restrictions) and allow passengers to be escorted to and from the aircraft toilets. The 737-800 has an onboard wheelchair, but no wheelchair accessible toilets.
Meet and Assist Services: The service must be requested at the time of booking and generally commences once you've checked-in. Includes assisting to/from check-in to the departure gate, from the arrival gate to baggage claim and meeting you at the departure/arrival gate to collect/deliver your mobility aid (where possible).
Special Seating: Aircraft are equipped with torso harness restraints enabling a customer to remain upright during take-off, landing and if necessary, throughout the entire flight.
Flag carrier to Canada, the airline is dedicated to providing specialist attention from the moment you arrive at the airport until you leave the airport at your destination.
Advance Notice: It is important to contact the airline at least 24 hours before departure to arrange special assistance. If you are traveling on an airplane with fewer than 60 passenger seats (Bombardier Dash 8-300, Dash 8-100 or CRJ100/200, or Beechcraft 1900D) 48 hours notice will be required.
Restroom Facilities: Washrooms on most aircraft are fully accessible via the on-board wheelchair, but please note that not all Air Canada Express aircraft have an on-board wheelchairs able to access washrooms.
Onboard Wheelchairs: Onboard wheelchairs are available on most aircraft.
Meet and Assist Services: Air Canada will, upon request, provide wheelchair assistance to and from the door of the aircraft throughout your journey.
Special Seating: Passengers are able to request a seat with special adaptions, including removable armrests, additional floor space for a service animal, greater legroom, or an adjoining seat.
Advance Notice: Notice is required within 48 hours of your flight. The airline recommends that you make your special assistance request as far in advance as possible. If you request special assistance during booking, a coordinator will contact you before your flight to ensure necessary requests are complete.
Restroom Facilities: The onboard wheelchairs may not fit within the onboard lavatory. Assistants will be required if you are unable to access the restroom facilities from the wheelchair.
Onboard Wheelchairs: Onboard wheelchair assistance is available on most planes. Flight attendants can provide assistance in transfers between your seat and an onboard wheelchair, and in moving the onboard wheelchair to and from the lavatory door.
Meet and Assist Services: The airline's special assistance coordinators will help with your wheelchair assistance and mobility assistance, including getting in and out of the plane.
Special Seating: Seats are available with removable armrests and extra space.
Advance Notice: As much notice as possible is required. This can be done through Delta's website or through your travel agent (Alternative Airlines!)
Restroom Facilities: The onboard wheelchairs may not fit within the onboard lavatory. Larger aircraft have an onboard wheelchair-accessible lavatory. This depends on the age, size and configuration of the airplane.
Onboard Wheelchairs: Onboard wheelchairs are available. Aircraft with less than 50 seats are not equipped with an onboard wheelchair. The flight crew can assist you with using an onboard wheelchair.
Meet and Assist Services: The airline can assist you in boarding, deplaning and connecting to your next flight.
Special Seating: The airline provides movable aisle armrest seats and seats with extra space.
Advance Notice: You can notify the airline at the time of booking, or at least 48 hours prior to your flight.
Restroom Facilities: Wheelchair friendly restrooms are not available on all flights. Assistance can be provided to the restroom doors.
Onboard Wheelchairs: Onboard wheelchairs designed to fit in the aisle of our aircraft are available on all Emirates flights.
Meet and Assist Services: Pre-boarding assistance is available upon request. The airline can assist you with transportation from the terminal entrance, to the boarding gate, making connections, and transportation from the aircraft to the terminal entrance.
Special Seating:The airline provides aisle seats with movable armrests and extra space.