Flying with (not my) wheelchair
August 18, 2017 7:48 PM   Subscribe

I'm taking an international flight next month and I need to bring a folding wheelchair with me, for a grandparent. Can I check it without further packaging as part of my baggage allowance? I am able-bodied myself, don't know if the regular wheelchair rules apply for a non-user.
posted by serelliya to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
I've seen the airlines (Southwest Air) give passengers a lightweight nylon-like bag to put bulky items into - like a stroller or carseat. Call your airline and see how they want you to check it. I'm not sure if all airlines do this. Or google your airline and 'how to check bulky items'.

You might also be able to box it up using a few different cardboard boxes taped together.
posted by hydra77 at 8:10 PM on August 18, 2017

No, I believe the exception to baggage allowance only applies if it's for you. I'd contact the airline.
posted by bizarrenacle at 10:31 PM on August 18, 2017

It's none of the airline's business who uses the wheelchair once you get there.
posted by bleep at 10:51 PM on August 18, 2017

I've flown with a family member who needed a wheelchair for travel, and we were able to gate-check it when we boarded. I know other folks who do the same with strollers.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:02 AM on August 19, 2017

bleep, it is their business in the sense that there is a difference between transporting a wheelchair as cargo and transporting it so that the user will have access to it when they need it. For instance, OP wouldn't need to gate check the chair, they can check it at the check in desk since they're not using it to get to the plane.
posted by bizarrenacle at 1:34 AM on August 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Not sure where you'd be comfortable on the ethical concept, but if you WERE to use it for your trip you certainly wouldn't be the first person at the airport in a wheelchair who didn't need it, and it would very much simplify the transport of the chair. Airlines have a well-defined procedure for transporting wheelchairs for need, you're going to spend a lot of time over-explaining if you're just trying to check a chair as luggage.
posted by hwyengr at 5:28 AM on August 19, 2017

difference between transporting a wheelchair as cargo and transporting it so that the user will have access to it when they need it.

The cargo handlers at the destination airport very likely would automatically take any unboxed wheelchairs back up to the jet bridge, purely out of habit since it's done hundreds of times each day, whether it was gate checked or checked as luggage.
posted by hwyengr at 5:30 AM on August 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

I called the airline (United) and after being on hold for a while, they determined that it would count towards my baggage allowance (which is fine, I had assumed it would). The good news is that I don't need to package it in any way besides a name tag, and I can just take it to the regular checked luggage desk.

Personally I'm not comfortable with the ethics of pretending that the wheelchair is mine, although I think it's fine for others to do that if they want.

Hoping that the cargo handlers will know what to do; the destination country isn't one where wheelchairs are often used, so they might not have an automatic habit.
posted by serelliya at 2:53 PM on August 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

They will know what to do. My experience doesn't match hwyengr's comment. I've flown many times with my wheelchair and you have to be very specific to let them know you want to take it to the gate and get it back at plane door, and make sure they attach a gate check tag, and still there's every chance you'll get there, wait 20 minutes after everyone else has disembarked, and get told they won't bring it to the plane door so you have to let a stranger push you in an airport wheelchair to baggage claim.

I once had a several week Twitter battle with KLM after they insisted I couldn't get my wheelchair back during a 5 hour layover. You'll be fine. The idea that airport staff so consistently deliver wheelchairs to plane doors that they'll do it automatically is, frankly, laughable to me.
posted by bizarrenacle at 5:59 AM on August 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

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