Airline travel as a quadriplegic

I'm a C-5 complete quadriplegic and would like to begin airline travel. Planning a trip to Hawaii in November. I would like to hear from anyone with high level quadriplegic injury that has done airline travel. Most interested in how to perform weight shifts during airline travel. Also, what have your experiences been with getting your power chair back. Moving from one terminal to another with battery disconnected. Did you have to have battery disconnected? Damages to power chair? Transfers from power chair to aisle chair. I was planning on doing 4 man transfers with 4 point metal bar insert type of sling that would stay with me throughout travel. My wife will be traveling with me and be responsible for performing weight shifts.

Any and all experiences are welcome. Thank you in advance for your responses.

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i'm a C6 quad; need help w/ transfers, use a powerchair too. u shouldnt need to disconnect your batteries. all new powerchairs have safe dry-cell batteries. my chair has never been broken by airline staff, knock on wood. it does get a tad roughed/scuffed up though sometimes. at the gate make sure they put the brightly colored "HANDLE WITH CARE" tags on your chair.

airline staff will help u transfer. how much do u weigh? you should put your chair-cushion under your ass during the flight, if u have a jay or roho cushion that is. the transfer into the aisle chair is easy. airline staff do 2 man lifts, which makes the transfers great.

have fun!


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Air travel can be a challenge however, with some good planning you can travel with relative comfort. I am a C5-6 Incomplete SCI and have traveled a lot in my career. Here are some things to consider.

Contact the airline ground people at the airport well in advance before you travel and get names and phone numbers. Check on the policies and procedures before you travel so you know what you are facing. Typically they will board you first and deplane you last.

When booking your flight ask for bulkhead seats as they will provide more legroom as well as a bit of added privacy. Hawaii is a long flight depending your home location.

Make sure you have a good set of Gel filled batteries (If you don't already) and keep the service bill and have it show the installation date. The invoice should also state that the batteries are a sealed non spill able type of battery. This has always prevented my batteries from being removed and disconnected. When you get to the terminal to check in EARLY the airline might want to transfer you to a terminal chair because it is sometimes easier for them when taking your chair to be stowed. Request that you stay in your chair till you get to the aircraft. Site skin care and the need to stay on your cushion as long as possible if they aren’t cooperative; explain skin breakdown and they will breakdown. This is important as the terminal chairs often don't have removable arms and the transfer can be difficult to say the least especially without the opportunity to be on a proper cushion. The time between the transfer and getting onto the aircraft can be quite long.

When you are moved from your chair to the aisle chair to get into your seat, make sure your chair is properly tagged i.e. name, address destination etc. and have, as another member said signs on the chair stating to “Handle with Care”. It is also a god idea to have the check in staff look at your chair to ensure there is no damage before traveling. I have used dated, digital pictures and have never had any damage although I have been told the airlines can damage chairs.

Have a good set of bungee cords and have your wife take the foot peddles off and fold them up with your cushion (unless you want to sit on it in your seat) and strap them together vertical with your chair seat back. This prevents any possible damage to your cushion and foot peddles while in transit.

Weight shifts are problematic depending on your strength and ability. The best I was able to ever do is some serious leaning as the aircraft seats have some strong arm rests. While I like window seats there is less room to lean or lift to the window side. The aisle seat offers some additional space for this. I am not sure what you’re talking about with regard to the sling but can say there isn’t a lot of space for lift devices in the aircraft cabin. Generally you are transferred by two people, one at your legs and the other at your back.

Typically the arm rests on board do not remove so you have to alert the people lifting you to avoid bruising your hip into the arm as you transfer.

I realize this may be a daunting amount of stuff to think about when all you want is to travel. Believe me it is worth it but good planning can make a huge difference. Feel free to ask me about Hawaii as I lived there for some time and may be able to offer some help. In the meantime if you wish I will provide a complimentary membership for you to my new accessible travel system at all it takes is an e-mail message asking for it.

Have a great trip and I hope I have helped in some small way!

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Ok SuperQ, I'm FutureQ and thought I was unique, LOL! Would love to know what your Q means.

As to airline travel I have not yet tried it due to the problems apparently involved due to unreasonable requirements. I have severe Hetertrophic Ossification, the disease that deposits bone material into joints and infiltrates muscle and circulatory tissues often fusing joints and decreasing circulation. In fact I have the world's worst case of it as of the last I heard. And so my hips are fused solid and my knees thus pushed apart 24-25 inches. I am also 6'5": tall, C-5/6 SCI and weigh 240 lb. I cannot see myself being transferred into an airline seat as I don't think it could accomadate the spread the bone disease has caused to my knees. Essentially the combination of my bone disease and injury complications also combined with the airline regs and practices discriminates against my traveling by airliines.

This is why I think it is high time we demand that airlines make a removable seat that can allow a wheelchair to be tied down in place. That would end the issues of transfering and weighshifts and all else, with the exception of what to do with needing to urinate on a long flight. I cannot imagine having my smelly urine emptied into a urinal there in the aisle so that all the other passengers could share the lovely fragrance. ;) One could try wearing double or even triple leg bags using Y connectors or use a 2000cc bed bag instead somehow disguised or hidden from view. In other words somehow or other trying to increase oe's personal urine drain system capacity and of course avoid drinking much while inflight.

I really think we should demand the ADA act be expanded to airlines. It would not require that much for them to modify a seat to be removable. They could interchange it with one of the addendant seats. Heck on the larger aircraft these days there is no good reason now to not have a space always available.

FutureQ aka James

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I've traveled in the past with portable chairs. But now I'm in a powerchair.

The real obstacle is that I have blader issues.

Any ideas?

PS Love the bulkhead powechair suggestion. But how would they lock you in place? There are different kinds of docks.

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you cant sit in your wheelchair while in flight. it's against the FAA rules.

how do u go to the bathroom? if you cath, get a window seat then cover up your lap with a blanket while you drain your urine into a bottle.


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Lot's of good info from many postings. I travel alot including to Europe and Hawaii from California. Being prepared is ideal, as is arriving early and informing the airline of your needs. I only travel with my manual chair as it makes getting around my destinations and into peoples homes and businesses easier as most destinations have limited "visitability". I have yet to travel with my power chair. Definitely sit on your own cushion. Depending upon your height, you may want to carry an inflatable child's booster seat to place under your feet. I am 5'3" and sitting on my own cushion means my feet dangle in the air like a two year old. Also, adult diapers are a great asset and I place a child's diaper changing pad on my cushion for backup. If your urine smells strong, you definitely need to be drinking more water. Contrary to western humans ideas that urine is supposed to be yellow (dark yellow to be truly manly) urine should be almost clear except for the first morning urine. Drugs and vitamins can certainly effect the color. But the smell? Unless you've been eating asparagus, the smell should be pretty light. Not like roses, mind you, but not like barnyard urine or sidewalk urine.
Oh yes, weight shifts, when the passenger sitting in front of me gets up, the seat back can be pushed into a totally forward position allowing you to lean way forward with support and do your shifts. If the passenger in front doesn't move on their own, I ask them. I have always been accomodated.
Be very clear with the people supporting your travels about what you need. You are the expert of your own body, so, be the navigator. Patience and kindness go along way to getting where you want to go. lovely day... Molly

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I am the wife of a C5 quad and we did travel rather frequently. I would say that 9 out of the 10 times flown it has been an absolute nightmare and his power chair has come back with damage. This despite my sister and I both labeling the chair with brightly colored tape to indicate how to handle the chair, taping a pillow to the seat back to protect his antishear mechanism and being allowed down on the tarmac to instruct the guys how to load and unload the chair.
The transferring is a mess as well. I take his joystick off from the chair and put it manual mode so it will not get broken in transport. They always send some little chic who is as sweet as an be but can't move a popcorn kernel. And this is with advance notice of a passenger with a disability traveling and us being more than ready and descriptive about his needs. So I end having to do most of the transferignwith some help from one of the guys.
In between flights they t/f onto a manual chair seems a bit eaier.
The only time I flew and it was great was from V egas to Charlotte w/Us Air and the supervisor of the Tarmac and loadinh through USAIR knew exactly waht he was doing:)
I will drive if it is around 12-15 hours before flying anymore.
We usually cath right before we get on the plane, right at layover and then at destination, however could do it at the seat with a blanket....
Sorry my experiences aren't as positive.

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For those who travel a lot. Please give me your thoughts on the best shower chairs/commodes on the market to travel with. Which ones are easy to assemble and are compact. Any direction would help me a great deal!

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Wheeledsweetiepie confidently reported,

"Contrary to western humans ideas that urine is supposed to be yellow (dark yellow to be truly manly) urine should be almost clear except for the first morning urine. Drugs and vitamins can certainly effect the color. But the smell? Unless you've been eating asparagus, the smell should be pretty light. Not like roses, mind you, but not like barnyard urine or sidewalk urine. "

I love your optimism and I am very glad that you have apparently not had to have discovered something some of us unfortunately have. Once you get a really nasty bug in a UTI, especially E Coli, it never leaves you. This is because neither ones immune system or drugs can get to all the tiny beggars living amongst the innumerable tiny nooks and crannies of the bladder's lining... or so I have been informed. Thus I have a permanent low grade bladder infection that will live with me until I die or get a new bladder. Since it is E. Coli, due to the body not fighting it aggressively because it belongs in the gut, its byproducts of metabolism give off a smell of feces and this is regardless of how clear colored my urine becomes which is most of the time quite colorless.

I have unfortunately far too intimate a knowledge if this problem. I have suffered the loss of one kidney to this mess and nearly my life. I eventually invented and pioneered the use of heart stints placed in the urethra to allow voiding with a condom catheter rather than an indwelling. I was forced to use an indwelling for 20 years due to the sphincter muscle being unable to unclench and so strong as to require a 24 size foley to have a wall thickness large enough to prevent collapse.

Alas the sphincter fix that allowed me to recover and that my urologist swears has allowed me alone among many to survive a nefrectomy, he says most with compromised health die within 2 years of one, has failed due to skin irritation the condom catheters and so I am back to an indwelling. I keep ahead of the infection blooming and killing my remaining kidney by drinking acidic teas all day and eating 10-12k mg's of ascorbic acid vitamin C a day to keep my bladder too acidic to be cozy for critters. These also lend to the smell. So this is why I would not subject the other passengers of a flight to that insult... bad enough for my caregivers -- despite my being, trust me on this, quite well enlightened away from concerns of what might be considered manly. ;) Btw, I didn't know strong yellow pee was such a measure but I learn something new every day. :)

My main website:

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Thank you for sharing your personal experience, FutureQ. What a road to travel. Whew! I had zero idea that our "plumbing" can be so compromised. I only experienced 3 UTI's in my quad life and find the cranberry pills to manage the acid levels of my insides works effectively. Seems there should/could be some Chinese herb concoction that one could use to cleanout the entire system of all those "bugs". Sometimes the thought occurs to me that our bodies are here this life so doctors can practice on live, responsive people. Lovely day.

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Dear wheeledsweetiepie, you are most welcome. Well maybe there is a good reason why they call it a "practice" rather than a vocation... haha ;) And ya know even though they practice their entire careers, so far, 100% of their patients die! That's not a good track record. LOL! I should talk though, I have 6 doctors in my family and I was nearly one myself if my bone disease had not finished my college career early.

As to Chinese herbs, who knows? Most drugs come from a plant or animal in the first place so maybe one will be found one day, just likely not from rhino horn or bears paws, etc. I'm not waiting around for such like to be found. Being a Transhumanist I do take several supplements aimed at longevity but I do take some claims of Chinese medicine with a heaping grain of skeptical salt, acupuncture for instance, in my opinion, is pure bunk, just like feng shui (fung shway).

This also leads into your "this life" comment. Please pardon my taking your non serious comment into a serious discussion. I am totally being opportunistic. ;) Personally I don't think there is any other life but this one so I am hanging onto it as long as I can. I am signed up for Cryonics as my very last resort if that's any indication of my sincerity on this. I work with scientists that are working hard at engineering ourselves away from aging and even toward rejuvenation. Related to that is my comment about new bladders... it's being done. Here is my news blurb about it at the website I work on for the Methuselah Foundation.

If necessary we will engineer replacement parts for our bodies until such time as stronger technology can aid them in self repair, complete regeneration (it turns out we have the genes from our amphibian ancestors they are merely turned off) or nano scale robotic rebuilding of individual cells molecule by molecule.

If there is any other life than this it will have to wait for me. I don't care how long that is. Whatever might be beyond this life, if it exists, would necessarily have to exist outside of time as we understand it. So it could not matter how long one put off taking that very final chance on it. After all maybe only oblivion awaits us all. We are the first generations that just might make that chance optional. I aim to try for all of us.

I know I've gone quite far afield now from Airline travel so if anyone is interested in these topics we should make a new thread.

My main website:

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I saw this video awhile ago, it is pretty well done:


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so we could startt a new topic and call it? I count on my amphibious salamander genes being turned on. I have moved from zero voluntary movement beyond my shoulders to ambulating on land with balance support. Generating new neural pathways. It took me 7 years just to get my legs under me, bearing weightt, with no braces. I continue to "gain ground" so-to-speak. And as for new organs and repair inside our own bodies? Absolutely...Yes. The imagination of Star Trek grounding in reality. lovely day... Molly

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"Yes. The imagination of Star Trek grounding in reality"

Funny enough, I'm just now watching the documentary "Star Trek Tech".. :)

We could call it. 'Our Transhuman Future'. If I get ambitious later I'll see about doing it. Just a little in need of rest at this moment.... ah reality, that sublimely sweet double edged sword. ;)


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Posts: 9

I wrote the following article to post on our website but as it applies to anybody confined to a wheelchair who travels with medical equipment, I thought I'd post it in here as well:


When traveling with your Go-Anywhere Chair entails flying and having to deal with airline personnel and airport security, be prepared! You are, most assuredly, going to be confronted with one or more potential obstacles. First of all, know your rights! There are numerous resources available on-line from which you may easily glean the specifics using a keyword search for “airline and wheelchair”. For our purpose here, however, suffice it to say that your Go-Anywhere Chair is a “fragile medical device” which should be “gate-checked” and is not chargeable as passenger baggage. Having your wheelchairs “Gate-checked” means that you will take your portable commode / shower chair through Security, to the gate, and into and down the jet-way. From there, it may either be stored on-board in the closet separating the first-class cabin from coach, or taken down below and stored with your wheelchair in the cargo compartment. The latter method is far more likely, these days, as most airlines, in their efforts to maximize revenue, have eliminated the aforementioned closet and replaced them with more seating. Adequate on-board storage, however, may be available on some of the larger aircraft utilized in international flights. Let’s walk through the process of successfully gate-checking your Go-Anywhere Chair at no charge:

Before leaving home, take the liberty of stuffing your Go-Anywhere Chair carrying case first, with all of your medical supplies and second, with whatever clothing, or anything else, you can squeeze in except for vessels containing liquids or gels. As you will not be charged for this particular item of baggage, you may as well save yourself a few more bucks by filling it up.

Upon arrival at the airline’s service desk, check-in with a representative. Do not check-in electronically at a computer kiosk. Check and, if required, pay for your regular baggage. You can review a chart of all the airlines and their fees at Note that Southwest Airlines should be your preferred air carrier as, of this writing, Southwest remains the only airline that does not charge for your first checked bag.

Carefully label and tag all of your baggage and instruct the agent at the counter to provide you with gate-check (pink) tags for both your wheelchair and for your commode / shower chair. When you are told, (and more likely than not, you will be told), that you have to check your Go-Anywhere Chair as regular baggage, pay for it or are given a hard time for any other reason, it’s time to get assertive. First, tell the Agent that you have always had your shower chair gate-checked. Second, inform the Agent that the case contains “delicate medical equipment” which, if dropped, or if something is dropped on it, will result in damage requiring the airline to replace a $2,000 wheelchair. I guarantee that you’ll be handed a pink gate-check tag very quickly. Should you experience any further problem (which I have not), demand to speak with a supervisor and take names.

Proceed to the TSA security checkpoint. Review TSA regulations specific to travelers with disabilities at: Inform TSA security personnel that your case contains your commode/shower wheelchair and that it will fit, (albeit snugly), through the x-ray tunnel. To date, following many such security checks, I have yet to have my carrying case opened for inspection.

With the hard part behind you, proceed to your gate, check-in with the Agent at the counter, make whatever seating changes you want / they can make and arrange for an aisle chair to be available, should one be required. When the Agent asks what’s in the case, repeat yet again, “it’s a delicate shower chair”. You will be boarded ahead of the other passengers. Airline personnel, for the most part, well-trained in handling disabled passengers, will assist you down the jet-way along with your Go-Anywhere Chair, transfer board and laptop computer. After they transfer you to the aisle chair and on to the aircraft, they will stow both of your chairs. Make sure that you take your wheelchair seat cushion on board as storing it in the non-pressurized cargo compartment could result in damage to the cushion. The foam cushions on your Go-Anywhere Chair will store in cargo without any problems. Finally, when making connections, make certain that both wheelchair and Go-Anywhere Chairs are brought up into the jet-way and that, one way or another, that they accompany you to your connecting flight where you will have to repeat the boarding process yet again.

Air travel for people with disabilities is a hassle and can be embarrassing and downright uncomfortable. Following the steps in the aforementioned process will not change this fact, unfortunately, though it will make it a little less miserable.

Rick Goldstein
GO! Mobility Solutions

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My son isn't a quad but a new Para... His first flight was 12wks post injury and we just got his wheel chair back. The airlines smashed it. He has power assist wheels. The airlines didn't book us bulk head seats and wouldn't switch us. My son got pressure marks on his knee's from not being able to fit in a regular seat as he is 6' 5. A passanger had to jump over him to get to his seat and fell. It was a nightmare. The flight back (and this is where they smashed his chair) they did put us in the bulk head seats. Much more room. But let me tell you for a para the arm rests don't move up and down and he had to try to transfer from the isle chair over the top of this arm rest and it was very painful for him. The big guys they had helping him couldn't lift him. It was nuts. I would suggest anyone flying with any form of Paligia .. Fly First Class! Seats are bigger much more leg room more privacy and the arms

Our trip cost the airlines 12K total and special VIP care on our next flight. But what a nightmare to go through not having wheels to go home with, having to use a loaner chair for a month and having to stay in bed 24 hours till they delivered the loaner. crazy stuff!

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Hi all,

I am quadriplegic on a ventilation. I have lived like this for 14 years and always wanted to travel on a plane. My injury is at the c2/c3 level. I have read all the post here and have found alot of helpful information to make it possible. But the one question that i have that needs answering is how to travel with a ventilator.

Is there antone here that is on a vent? What is it like and has there been any problems?

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C 5-6 quad manual chair user. I've been flying for 20 plus years. Hundreds of flights domestic and international. the first thing is to know your rights. I carry a copy of the DOT rules - you can download a copy here:

Second, if there is a problem you need to file a complaint with the DOT. you can file it electronically here:

20 years ago airline travel was a nightmare - no priority seating, denied boarding, no help getting on and off planes, broken and lost chairs. The only way to make things better is to file complaints. The DOT is very good and if they notice a pattern of abuse they will step in. they also use the complaints to write new rules. Now, i think flying is mostly very good. Domestically I'd say 8 or 9 out of 10 flights are problem free. Gate check your chair - do not get off the plane until your chair is at the plane door. You get priority seating... period. If they have to move another passenger who isn't disabled then they have to do it. Bulkhead is great for taller people, but the armrests do not lift up. . Don't let someone lift you if you are not comfortable with it. It's your body and your potential bruise or injury.

I use a Nuprodx travel shower/commode chair and love it.

Know your rights. Travel.

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