Sometimes the anxiety over long dashes through crowded airports and long periods standing in immigration and check-in lines make older grandparents reluctant to join family travel. Airport assistance can make travel as easy for them as it is for you.
In some airports, the distance between arrival and departure gates is more than 1 mile, a long way to walk, especially with any carry-on baggage. But the Air Carrier Access Act assures passengers airlines operating in the United States must provide a wheelchair or motorized cart and an escort for any passenger who requests it. This also includes foreign airlines taking off or landing at a U.S. airport. European Union regulations apply the same rule in E.U. countries, and the United Kingdom has a similar one.
Who is Eligible?
Travelers don’t need to show any proof of disability, so in addition to those with obvious disabilities, any traveler who feels unable to walk long distances can take advantage of this service.
How Do You Arrange for Assistance?
Tell the airline when making the reservation or call them at least 72 hours before flight time. Some airlines’ websites have a prompt for this when you reserve.
What Does it Cost?
The service is free, although it is customary to tip the attendant $3–5, more if the transfer is a long one involving help getting through security and immigration as well.
Depending on how much assistance a traveler needs, they can be met with a wheelchair at the airport entrance and accompanied all the way to their seat on the plane. Those otherwise mobile can request help from check-in to the flight gate, and from the arrival gate to their connecting flight or baggage claim. Those who have difficulty walking long distances but can use stairs may be assisted to the gate with a cart instead of a wheelchair.
Are You Separated from Assisted Travelers?
Depending on the size of your party, you will probably all stay together through immigration checkpoints, but the number of accompanying passengers may be limited.
Where Do You Meet the Attendant?
The Assistance Point is usually near the airport entrance, or you can simply tell the airline representative at the check-in area a member of your group has requested assistance. If the Assistance Point is not staffed, there will be a buzzer or telephone. Some airports have waiting rooms for people with disabilities or requiring assistance.
Who Can Board Early?
Even if they have not requested assistance, passengers who move slowly or need extra time can board before other passengers if they identify themselves to the staff at the boarding gate.
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