Here are some helpful tips if you have not flown since MS affected your mobility:
Tips on booking a flight with airlines
If you book your flights online; first check carefully for online booking "Special Needs" registration forms. This is a check list of your needs and ability. The following are just a few examples:
- Are you in a wheelchair?
- Are you visually or hearing impaired?
- Will you need assistance boarding the plane?
If you do not feel confident that the form addressed your specific needs, call the airline reservations and ask for assistance in filling out the form or making additional notations. Some airlines charge additional for booking the flight for you, verify that you are not being charged for this assistance. Let the airline's Flight-Reservationist know you will book your flight online, however, you want to confirm the “special needs” accommodations are available and will appear on your ticket.
(Special note: The Airline Flight-reservationists are professionals and if you are courteous, they can be very helpful and informative with additional information about the airline and the airport.)
Tips on Airports
If you are traveling alone, it is a good idea to have you your tickets with you in an accessible location on you when you arrive at the airport. If you are unfamiliar with the airport get directions from your airline or airport for the terminal, departing locations, and/or drop-off.
If you are driving locate parking and shuttle transportation from parking lot to your terminal. Remember, you have to handle you luggage during this stage. I would recommend a drop off at the departure for your airline. This is sometimes conveniently located at curbside where the Skycap can assist you with your needs. (Hint: Have cash for tips) Some airlines offer curbside check-in at some airports.
Good Skycaps can set the tone for your flight. (At this point, if you are in a wheelchair or if you need one, ask for the things you need to make your flight as comfortable as possible. The Skycap knows how to get you through baggage and wheelchair/walker check-in, security check and to terminal loading station quickly. (Remember, your tickets have the notation, SPECIAL NEEDS)
Planning ahead when you have a disability like MS
This is the most important part of the process. Some of the things to remember at this stage are as follows:
- Do you need medication to fly due to fear of flying? If so how does that medication affect your cognitive abilities and mobility? Also, it would be a wise choice to travel with a companion if you do take medication.
- What time is your flight? Booking flights at rush hour is not a good idea. However, soon after the peak times are the best times to book, airport workers have more time to assist you.
- How are you dressed? Everyone is aware of airport security checks and luggage restrictions. But if you are not, you can find this information online under airport security guidelines. Here is a link to a helpful site - http://www.ifly.com/airport-security
- Bladder control issues: Talk with you doctor and experiment or rehearse with using various kinds of products so that you will fill comfortable for the length of time needed to reach your destination or to be able to access bathrooms.
- Many people worry about traveling with medication that needs to be kept cold or cool. There are ice packs that are made for this purpose. Check with your pharmacy. (Pack it in your luggage or pre-check with security if you use a carry-on only.
- Airport transport between terminals on connecting flights can be challenging. But if you are flying on a budget can be a necessity. So, when you are booking your flight – check airport for terminal locations and transport assistance. A slightly longer layover may be less stressful. (Note: Airport transport worker are very helpful in getting you on and off the shuttle vehicle. As well as in and out of the wheelchair.)
- Once you reach your destination and you have claimed your baggage, again look for the Skycap of Curbside Assistant. They may be harder to find leaving the airport. So, make sure to request assistance as soon as possible upon de-boarding the plane.
- If you are visiting a city alone call the City’s Chamber of Commerce Dept. or Hospitality Dept. for information on accessibility and transportation. Also, remember to check the local National Multiple Sclerosis Society office for information or tips on city.