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Top 5 Disability Friendly Airlines

If you have visible or invisible disabilities, choosing the best airline to travel with can be a difficult process. It is essential to travel with an airline that has the right assistance available to support you on your journey, from boarding to disembarking.

Planning your journey is an important part of living with a disability. Several airlines require 48 hours’ notice to ensure that suitable disability support is in place for your flight, although some will offer assistance at short notice. By offering priority boarding and discreet assistance as part of the sunflower lanyard or similar scheme, many airlines offer a range of assistance to those with disabilities.

At Fish Insurance, we have compiled a list of the top five disability-friendly airlines to help save you time searching for your next airline partner.

1. Virgin Atlantic

The special assistance programme offered by Virgin Atlantic includes requesting support from airport staff to assist with your journey to or from the aircraft. For those with mobility issues, this includes pre-arranging a wheelchair or mobility vehicle on arrival at the airport or helping you board the flight with your wheelchair if required.

How Virgin Atlantic is helping people with hidden disabilities overcome  travel challenges | Virgin
Photo Credit: Virgin Atlantic

Priority seating is available to disabled customers, and a wheelchair is available onboard for those unable to travel on their own. The cabin crew can help you get around from your seat to the door of the aircraft bathroom. If you have an invisible or ‘hidden’ disability, Virgin Atlantic have a printable document you can download from their website. This document can be shown to the flight crew to discreetly make them aware you have a hidden disability in case you need to ask for assistance.

2. British Airways

In February 2022, British Airways became the first UK airline to formally recognise the ‘Hidden disabilities sunflower’. The sunflower lanyard is worn to discreetly signal a non-visible disability. This helps the flight crew understand that a passenger may need on-board help or more time with boarding or leaving a flight.

Photo Credit: ADS Advance

If you have a disability, there are several services available to support your flight with British Airways. When you contact the special assistance team, you can request pre-boarding support with mobility or other assistance from the airport to help you safely reach the aircraft. You can also request help with reaching your seat, moving to/from the bathroom, or travelling with a service dog.

3. Qantas

This airline is primarily known for long-haul travel to and from Australia. Qantas staff can help arrange assistance with getting to the departure gate, boarding/disembarking and finding your seat.

Specific needs when travelling, get help | Qantas
Photo Credit: Qantas

If you have mobility limitations, Qantas offer extra support for those travelling with or without their mobility aid. On some flights, it’s possible to stow one collapsible wheelchair in the aircraft cabin if it fits within the size restrictions and is requested during airport check-in. Whilst this service is offered on a ‘first come, first serve basis’, two pieces of mobility equipment including walking canes/frames and crutches can be stowed into the aircraft cabin free of charge.

4. Emirates

The Emirates accessible travel scheme offers assistance for passengers with a range of disabilities. For those with audio or visual impairments, inflight entertainment includes films and TV programmes with audio descriptions and closed captions options. Emirates headphones are also compatible with standard hearing aids.

Emirates Special Assistance Wheelchair | Call +1 844-902-2949
Photo Credit: Travomojo

Cabin crew are on hand to facilitate priority boarding for disabled passengers who require extra time to board the aircraft first, ahead of the other passengers. Accessible Travel with Emirates provides airport assistance from the terminal entrance drop‑off point through to the pick‑up point on arrival. If you need to bring additional support items on board, the airline allows medical equipment and a maximum of two mobility aids to be brought into the aircraft cabin without an additional baggage charge, if they fit the sizing requirements. Service dogs are also able to travel free in the cabin on certain routes.

5. American Airlines

If you require special assistance at the airport or during your flight, you can make a request online or call an American Airlines special assistance coordinator in advance of your trip. Once you have requested assistance, the coordinator will contact you to confirm the arrangements are in place ahead of your trip.

One Thing American Airlines Does Better Than Delta for Disabled Flyers -  Wheelchair Travel
Photo Credit: Wheelchair Travel

There are several support services available for those with visible or invisible disabilities, from mobility/wheelchair assistance at the airport to hearing and vision assistance to ensure you are informed on important updates to your flight whilst waiting to board. Early boarding and special seating are also available

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