Carefree travelling: Tips for people with an illness or disability - Flightright UK

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Travelling by air with illness and disability

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Flying with illness and disability
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The most important facts about “Flying with illness and disabilities”

  • In the EU, airlines must support people with disabilities free of charge to give them equal access to flight services
  • Disabled passengers can benefit from assistance such as wheelchairs and escorts at airports before their flight.
  • Medical devices may be taken along free of charge, in some cases a medical certificate is required.
  • Special rules apply for visually impaired passengers travelling with assistance dogs; registration with the airline is required.
  • Barrier-free check-in counters at the airport with sufficient space and trained staff simplify the check-in.
  • Wheelchairs must be registered in advance and special regulations apply to batteries.
  • Both prescription and over-the-counter medicines may be carried in hand baggage in their original packaging.
  • Good planning and communication with the airline are important for an accessible journey.
  • If you have an acute infection or uncontrollable bleeding, you should refrain from flying and seek medical advice.

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Flying is a fascinating experience and for many an unforgettable adventure, especially the first time. Excitement and a little nervousness are often part of it. Boredom rarely sets in – unless the flight drags on.

For people with disabilities, mobility restrictions or chronic illnesses, however, the flight experience can have a completely different quality. It is important to pay special attention to these groups of people to ensure that they too can make full use of their right to mobility and travel.

Do airlines (in the European Union) have to offer free assistance to people with disabilities?

Fortunately, airlines in the European Union are required by law to provide free assistance to people with disabilities and people with reduced mobility. These regulations guarantee that all passengers have equal access to air transport services.

This is independent of the passenger’s fitness to fly at the time. Airlines must therefore cater for every person who wishes to use their services.

But what specific assistance is offered? In the following sections, we provide detailed information about the services available at the airport, travelling with medical equipment and aids such as wheelchairs and the correct handling of medication on board.

What help is available for people with disabilities at the airport?

Many airports offer a wide range of assistance and services for people with disabilities before they travel to make their journey as pleasant and barrier-free as possible. Nevertheless, it is advisable for first-time travellers in particular to find out about the available services in advance:

  1. Mobility assistance: Wheelchairs and assistance services are provided by the airlines to make it easier for guests with reduced mobility to move around the terminal. It is worth booking this service well in advance to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
  1. Pre-check-in: To avoid long queues, disabled passengers can often check in in advance. This also offers the opportunity to clarify special seating requests or medical requirements in advance.
  1. Accessible facilities: Required by law, airports provide facilities such as lifts, disabled toilets and ramps that allow easy access to the main areas.
  1. Special security checks: Many airports provide special procedures tailored to the needs of persons with disabilities to ensure their dignity and comfort during screening. It is advisable to book this assistance in advance.
  1. Assistance with boarding: Airlines often provide special assistance when boarding the aircraft, which may include the use of wheelchairs, lifts or special means of transport.
  1. Communication aids: For guests with hearing or speech impairments, many airports provide assistance such as sign language interpreters or written communication aids.
  1. Escort service: Some airports offer an escort service to facilitate check-in, security checks and other processes at the airport. Perfect for guests who find it difficult to orientate themselves or have physical limitations. The escort service may incur additional costs.

The quality and scope of these services may vary depending on the airport, so it is always advisable to enquire in good time so that everything can be arranged to your satisfaction.

Free transport of medical aids, medicines and equipment

Passengers with disabilities or health restrictions can take their necessary medical equipment and medicines with them on their holiday free of charge. It is generally permitted to take these items and medicines on board, subject to the applicable regulations.

You may be required to produce a medical certificate confirming the necessity of these items. This includes wheelchairs, walking aids and medical equipment such as oxygen concentrators.

It is important to label items visibly and pack them securely to avoid damage during the flight. Medication should be packed in the original packaging and a copy of the prescription, or a medical certificate will make it easier for security staff to clarify any questions.

Liquid medicines are subject to the general restrictions for liquids in hand baggage. This means that each container may contain a maximum of 100 ml and must be stowed in a transparent 1-litre bag.

In countries with strict import regulations for certain active ingredients, you should inform yourself in advance about the applicable rules and, if necessary, have a medical certificate with you.

Free parking with the European parking permit

The European parking permit offers a major advantage for travellers with disabilities arriving by car. With this card, they can park in specially reserved parking spaces directly at the airport.

It is recognised by most European countries and allows holders to park in specially marked car parks that are strategically located near important buildings and facilities to ensure easier access.

To make use of free parking facilities with the European parking permit, it should be clearly visible in the vehicle. This makes it easier for car park operators and traffic controllers to quickly recognise the user’s authorisation.

Some countries may not accept the European Parking Permit or have special rules for parking for people with disabilities.

People with visual impairments: Flying with assistance or guide dogs

For individuals with visual impairments, embarking on a journey accompanied by a guide dog significantly enhances the travel experience. These highly trained dogs serve not merely as companions but as essential aids that empower their handlers to navigate the world with a heightened sense of autonomy and confidence.

Prior to initiating travel plans, it is essential to contact the chosen airline to inform them about the presence of a guide dog. This action is crucial, as each airline adheres to its own specific policies regarding the transportation of assistance animals. Early communication with the airline will facilitate a smoother travel process, ensuring that all necessary accommodations are made in advance.

Preparation of the appropriate documentation is a critical step in this process. Travelers must be ready to provide proof of their guide dog’s specialized training, typically in the form of a certificate or a letter issued by a recognized training organization. This documentation serves a dual purpose: it complies with airline requirements and underscores the indispensable role of the guide dog in the traveller’s journey.

Barrier-free check-in counters (for registration before the flight)

Many airlines offer special accessible check-in counters to make the check-in process as barrier-free as possible for travellers with illnesses or disabilities. These counters are designed to meet the needs of travellers with mobility impairments.

Barrier-free check-in counters are usually available:

  • Sufficient space for wheelchairs, walking frames or other aids to ensure that everyone can move around freely.
  • Lower tables that enable communication at eye level and thus create a pleasant check-in experience.
  • Trained staff who not only greet you with a smile, but also cater to the specific needs of these travellers.
  • Additional assistance with the processing of health documents for travellers with medical conditions to ensure a smooth process and alleviate any concerns.

Flying with implants, pacemakers and prostheses

Here are some important points that travellers with implants, pacemakers or prostheses should bear in mind to make their flight safe and comfortable.

Preparation before the flight:

  • Medical certificate: It is advisable to obtain a medical certificate confirming the medical devices and their necessity.
  • Information to the airline: Travellers should inform the airline of their special needs in good time. This should be done at least 48 hours before departure.
  • Security checks: It is important to tell security officers at airport check-in that you have an implant or device in your body. Metal implants can trigger suspicious metal indicators.

At the airport and during the flight:

  • Security check: Travellers should be prepared for additional checks, as pacemakers and some prostheses can trigger metal detectors.
  • Boarding pass and documentation: It is helpful to keep the boarding pass and medical certificate to hand.

Flying with wheelchairs and other mobility aids

For travellers with wheelchairs or other mobility aids, good preparation is crucial to avoid complications. Here are some important points:

Registration with the airline

  • Inform the airline at least 48 hours before departure about your need for assistance (wheelchair, oxygen device, etc.).
  • Ask about special services and assistance at the airport and on board.

Medical certificates

  • Obtain a medical certificate of fitness to fly (MEDIF) and carry it with you.
  • Additional evidence may have to be provided for oxygen devices.

Wheelchairs and batteries

  • Manual wheelchairs can usually be checked in as luggage when folded.
  • Find out about the regulations for batteries in electric wheelchairs, as these often must be treated separately.
  • Remove loose parts and accessories and take them on board.

Caution with wheelchairs with rechargeable battery

If you want to fly with an electric wheelchair, it is important to know the airline’s safety regulations and specific battery requirements. Contact them in advance to find out about the regulations for transporting electric wheelchairs. You may need to disconnect the battery and pack it separately. The airline will also inform you whether the wheelchair is allowed on board or must be placed in the cargo hold.

Security checks

  • Wheelchair users are usually scanned manually and checked with hand-held scanners.
  • The wheelchair is also inspected, which can take some time.

On board

  • Wheelchair users can often get on first and get off last.
  • On-board wheelchairs may be available for toilet visits.
  • Find out about seat allocations for people with reduced mobility.

Flying with other handicaps

The right to accessible travel is enshrined in law for people with disabilities. Open communication with the airline and careful planning can make a significant contribution to ensuring that the journey is as pleasant as possible.

It is advisable to arrive at the airport early on the day of your journey. This leaves enough time for check-in and security checks. Many airports offer special assistance services for passengers with physical disabilities.

Flying during pregnancy

Flying during pregnancy is particularly stressful for the body and requires careful planning and precautionary measures. The following aspects are of central importance:

Medical advice: A doctor should always be consulted before travelling by air to clarify individual risks. As every pregnancy is unique, it is crucial to obtain medical advice tailored to your personal circumstances.

Timing: Although many airlines allow you to fly well into your pregnancy, it is generally recommended that you avoid travelling by plane from the 36th week onwards. The risk of premature birth and other complications increases in the final weeks of pregnancy.

Seat selection: It is advisable to choose a seat that offers sufficient space and is comfortable. Aisle seats make it easier to stand up and move around during the flight, which promotes blood circulation and can minimise the risk of thrombosis.

Boarding denied during pregnancy?

Pregnant women being denied boarding is a matter that needs to be considered by both the airlines and the women involved. Airlines have safety guidelines that may include restrictions for pregnant women, especially in the case of advanced pregnancy or medical complications.

Reasons for denial of boarding may include the absence of a medical certificate or specific medical conditions. Pregnant women who are fit to fly may feel this is a violation of their rights. Flightright assists passengers, including pregnant women, with unjustified boarding refusals by enforcing claims against airlines and seeking appropriate compensation.

Those affected should contact Flightright for support and to protect their rights.

Flying after surgery

Anyone planning a flight after an operation should not ignore important considerations.

Consultation with a doctor: It is essential to speak to a doctor before the flight. They can assess whether it is safe to fly based on the individual’s medical condition and the type of surgery performed. Specific instructions may also be given for the upcoming flight that should be taken into account.

Wound healing and risk of infection: Wound healing may not be complete, which increases the risk of infection, especially if prolonged periods of sitting are required. It is advisable to keep the wound clean during the flight and to change sitting position regularly to avoid pressure sores.

Flying with broken bones or a plaster cast

The following steps should be taken to optimally prepare for a flight with broken bones or a plaster cast:

Obtain a medical certificate: It is mandatory to obtain a medical “fit-to-fly” certificate from the attending physician before the flight. This confirms that you are fit to fly and provides information about potential risks.

Book additional seats: For thigh casts, 1-2 additional seats must be booked so that the leg can be elevated.

Sign declaration of consent: Some airlines require passengers to sign a declaration of consent regarding the risks of travelling with a plaster cast. This should be checked and signed in advance to avoid any unexpected delays when travelling by air.

Note waiting times

  • No flights are permitted within 24 hours of a fracture.
  • Between 24 and 48 hours, only short-haul flights of less than 2 hours are permitted.
  • Longer flights are possible from 48 hours after the fracture.

Flying with oxygen

Passengers with cardiovascular diseases face particular challenges when flying. The reduced oxygen concentration in the aircraft cabin at cruising altitude can lead to a deterioration in their state of health.

The lower oxygen content can be particularly critical for patients with heart failure. It is recommended that these patients seek advice from their doctor before travelling by air to clarify whether additional oxygen is required.

For safety reasons, it is not permitted to take liquid oxygen with you when travelling by air. However, oxygen concentrators or gas cylinders with oxygen offer a good alternative.

Contacting the airline early on will help to find out about the exact requirements for medical oxygen on the aircraft. Sometimes additional documents or information from the doctor are required. To avoid problems when preparing for the journey or on the day of the flight, you should have all the necessary documents to hand.

Flying with serious or infectious diseases

Flying with serious or infectious diseases harbours risks and is often not permitted. An overview of the ky aspects should provide clarity: 

Infectious diseases: In the case of infectious diseases such as flu, gastrointestinal complaints or typical childhood illnesses such as the common cold, there is a high risk of infecting other passengers. For this reason, the flight crew may decide not to take affected passengers on board in order to protect the health of everyone on board.

Boarding denied due to illness? We fight for your rights!

Refusal to board due to illness is a dilemma for everyone involved. Flight crews have to protect health on board, which sometimes means denying boarding to sick passengers. The passenger, on the other hand, often feels unfit to travel and treated unfairly.

Flightright acts as an intermediary for the rights of these passengers. Our team uses its extensive knowledge to enforce passengers’ claims against the airlines. In the event of an unjustified boarding denial, we will examine your case, develop a strategy to enforce your rights and seek appropriate compensation. Our legal experts will represent you resolutely. Contact Flightright to protect your rights as a passenger.

Fever: Although fever alone is not a direct reason for a flight ban, it often indicates an infectious illness. Therefore, if you have a fever, you should postpone your flight until the cause has been clarified. Fever also increases the risk of thrombosis during the flight.

Respiratory diseases Severe respiratory diseases such as pneumonia can cause problems due to the lower pressure in the cabin and pose a health risk. People with middle ear infections could suffer severe pain due to pressure changes or even risk ruptured eardrums and bleeding.

Chronic illnesses: People with chronic respiratory diseases should seek medical advice before travelling by air and have their fitness to fly checked.

The bottom line is travelling is not recommended in the event of infectious or serious illnesses that could worsen during the flight. The safety and health of all fellow travellers and the crew are paramount. It is therefore always advisable to carefully consider your own state of health and consult a doctor before travelling by air.

Flight diversion due to night flight ban and special support for travellers with illness and disabilities

Sometimes it can happen that flights have to be diverted due to a night flight ban. This can be inconvenient for all travellers but poses particular challenges for passengers with illnesses or disabilities. Airlines are required to provide special assistance in such cases. This means that passengers with reduced mobility or special health needs have priority in the provision of information, assistance with transfers or accommodation if the flight diversion requires overnight accommodation.

Passenger rights in the event of a diversion – night flight ban

If your flight is diverted due to a night flight ban, you have certain rights as a passenger. These may depend on the airline and the specific situation, but generally apply:

  • Information: The airline must inform you of the reasons for the diversion and your rights.
  • Support: You are entitled to support services such as meals, refreshments and, if necessary, hotel accommodation.
  • Rebooking: You are entitled to a free rebooking of your flight or a refund of the ticket price.

Special assistance for passengers with illnesses or disabilities must be provided by the airline; this may include assistance at the new destination or specially organised transfer solutions.

Am I entitled to compensation in this case?

How much compensation can I get for a delay due to a night flight ban?

The amount of any compensation for delays caused by a night flight ban is based on EU passenger rights in accordance with Regulation (EC) No. 261/2004:

  • Short distance (less than 1500 km): 250 Euro
  • Medium distance (1500 to 3500 km): 400 Euro
  • Long distance (over 3500 km): 600 Euro

However, compensation depends on various factors, including the exact arrival time at the final destination and whether the airline can prove that the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances that could not have been avoided.

To avoid misunderstandings, affected travellers should always stay informed and contact the national enforcement body for air passenger rights in the event of a dispute. For passengers with illnesses or disabilities, it is advisable to make all necessary arrangements at the time of booking and to plan both departure and arrival well in order to ensure assistance in accordance with their special needs.

Are you having trouble with a flight delay and don’t want to accept it without doing anything? You shouldn’t either. After all, you are entitled to compensation in many cases of flight delays.

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Which illnesses prohibit one from flying?

When flying with illness or disability, there are some symptoms and conditions where it is not advisable or even forbidden to fly. These symptoms include

  • Acute infectious diseases, especially if they are contagious such as influenza or gastrointestinal infections
  • Severe pain or pressure in the chest area.
  • Uncontrollable bleeding or recently operated conditions.
  • Acute heart attack or stroke in the last 2 weeks.
  • Ear and sinus infections, which can cause severe pain in the pressurised cabin.
  • Acute psychoses or anxiety disorders that could jeopardise the safety of the flight.

If any of these symptoms apply, medical advice should be sought before flying. In some cases, a medical certificate may be required to prove that you are fit to fly despite the symptoms.

A doctor’s clearance should also be obtained before flying after major operations, bone fractures or in the case of cardiac insufficiency from NYHA level III. In the case of acute cardiovascular problems such as a heart attack or stroke in the last 2 weeks, postponement is mandatory. An early medical consultation is essential in order to assess individual fitness to fly and evaluate health risks.

Ultimately, the safety and well-being of all passengers is the top priority. In the event of acute illnesses or increased risks, it is essential to discuss with the doctor treating you and the airline whether it is advisable or even absolutely necessary to postpone your flight.

Travelling with an illness or disability – tips and tricks

Travelling can be a challenge if you suffer from an illness or disability. However, with some preparation, you can minimise potential complications and make your air travel more enjoyable. It is important to familiarise yourself with the special services that airlines offer and take all the necessary precautions.

What should you consider before the flight?

  • Medical advice: Talk to your doctor about your travel plans. You may need a medical certificate stating that you are fit to fly.
  • Communication with the airline: Inform the airline of your specific needs well in advance. Whether it’s taking medical equipment, additional oxygen or special seating requirements, most airlines offer special assistance for disabled passengers or those with reduced mobility.
  • Medical devices and remedies: Check whether you need special authorisation or additional documents to take medical devices, such as rechargeable batteries, on board. You should carry your medicine and medical aids in your hand baggage.
  • Check-in: Arrive at the airport several hours before departure in order to have enough time to make all the necessary arrangements.
  • Travel documents: Have all the necessary documents to hand, such as medical certificates and the relevant proof of vaccinations in accordance with the regulations of the country you are travelling to.

What should you look out for during the flight?

  • Comfort: Make sure that you are sitting comfortably and have all the necessary supports, such as cushions or blankets, available.
  • Exercise: To prevent blood clots, you should, if possible, get up and move regularly or do movement exercises while sitting.
  • Hydration: Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration, which is favoured by the dry cabin air.
  • Medication: Take your medicine according to your schedule, and be mindful of time shifts that may affect your medication schedule.

What should you consider after the flight?

  • Physical condition: Monitor your state of health closely after flying. Some symptoms, such as thrombosis or jet lag, may occur with a delay.
  • Connecting transfers: Make sure that suitable transport options are also available for the remaining part of your journey after the flight and inform the relevant service providers about the support you require.
  • Rest: After a long flight, take a break to recover from the stresses and strains of travelling, especially if your illness or disability makes this necessary.

With the right preparation and by following these tips, you can have an enjoyable and safe travelling experience even if you are ill or disabled.

How can Flightright help you?

Flightright is here to help you claim compensation for flight delays. We aim to make the process straightforward and stress-free. We also take into account special circumstances, such as denial of boarding due to illness or disability. Our experts leverage their extensive knowledge of EU passenger rights to secure the compensation you deserve. Visit our website to quickly check your eligibility and enforce your rights.

Your trip is well planned and the children are sleeping peacefully, but now the airline is getting in the way of your holiday happiness? Your flight is overbooked, delayed or cancelled? Has your luggage been delayed or lost?

According to the UK261 Legislation, passengers are entitled to compensation in the event of a delay, cancellation, overbooking, or missed connection. They can receive up to £520 compensation per person (minus the success commission). This compensation is independent of the ticket price. Flightright enforces your right for you. If necessary also in court.

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As the market-leading consumer portal, Flightright fights for the enforcement of air passenger rights. We stand up for your rights in the event of a flight delay, cancellation or denied boarding and refer to the UK261 Regulation. Flightright’s air passenger rights experts are also happy to help you with ticket refunds and refunds for cancelled package holidays.

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