Are you looking for the best airlines for disabled passengers?
Traveling with a wheelchair can be stressful if you don’t pick the right one to fly you to your destination.
Below, we’ll go over our top 9 picks and find out what makes them so ideal for wheelchair users.
Just keep on reading.
READ MORE: Top 3 Best Foldable Power Wheelchair
9 Best Airlines for Disabled Passengers and Wheelchair Users
When you have a disability or are in a wheelchair, traveling gets so complicated that you start to dread even short trips.
However, finding the right accessible airline for disabled passengers can make all the difference. You get to enjoy any wheelchair friendly vacation spots without dealing with all the additional stress.
No more worrying about how you’re going to board the plane, who’d help you during the flight, or how you would deal with your carry-on baggage.
To make things easy for you, we’re going to divide our reviews into two categories – US-based airlines and international ones.
FYI, we used affiliate links below. If you make a purchase through these links, we do earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
3 Best U.S. Based Airlines for Disabled Passengers
Every airline has detailed accessible policies on their website, specifying what services they offer. These policies also include rules for flying with transport wheelchairs and other mobility devices.
We’ll try our best to get you familiar with the most important services to narrow down your choice.
If you choose to fly with one of them, don’t forget to go over the provided information. Check requirements for disability travel, especially if you’re traveling with electronic medical devices.
Some airlines might provide flight discounts for disability. But you should check with your travel agent or ask the company’s office before booking.
#1 American Airlines
As one of the USA’s leading airlines, American Airlines strives to make air travel for disabled passengers as stress-free as possible.
That’s why American Airlines offer wheelchair service and assistance for anyone with visual, hearing, motion, speech, or cognitive impairments.
It’s easy for passengers to request special assistance when they’re booking a flight using “Add special assistance.” They can also contact American Airlines on the phone.
Service animals are also welcomed. But passengers should inform the crew at least 48 hours in advance, not on the day of travel.
In some cases, the airline’s dedicated team will call to confirm the request, provide additional details, and answer questions.
The airport staff is also helpful and offers assistance to and from gates, flight connections, and baggage claims.
During the flight, flight attendants help people with limited mobility to and from the onboard collapsible wheelchair. They also help passengers access the aircraft lavatory.
For those who need additional time to board and stow their baggage, pre-boarding is an option. So, no need to hurry too much or worry about crowded airports!
American Airlines planes also have seats with removable armrests and an option for an extra seat. But you’ll have to cover the fee for a different class of service.
As for traveling with power wheelchairs, portable oxygen concentrators, and other battery-operated devices, contact Special Assistance for additional information.
Customers report that they’ve used American Airlines multiple times and are happy with the level of service and accessibility.
However, some do note that the flight attendants on particular flights were rude when asked for assistance.
Moreover, since most aircraft have one designated spot for an onboard collapsable wheelchair, disabled travelers should contact the airline in advance.
#2 Delta Airlines
If you’re flying with a disability, Delta Airlines strives to make your experience as pleasant as possible with its team of gate agents and flight attendants.
One of the advantages of Delta is that disabled people can request assistance easily by going to MyTrip’s page or calling on the phone.
Delta’s team is ready to answer any questions passengers have about the flight, discuss their needs, and explain the procedures.
Moreover, Delta has their passengers with disabilities covered from the moment they arrive at that airport to the time they deboard.
Flight attendants help with stowing/retrieving personal items from the carry-on, using the onboard wheelchair, and opening packages.
Most planes have onboard wheelchairs, special-designed aisle wheelchairs, and movable aisle armrests.
As such, it is easy for travelers with disabilities to board/deboard the plane and go to the lavatory.
Service animals and confirmed emotional support animals are also allowed on board. But they have fit in the floor space below the seat or your lap. They travel free of charge.
Customers also like that Delta transports all types of wheelchairs and assistive devices necessary for managing their disability.
Most customers say that they get to board first before the other passengers and received adequate assistance.
However, some handicapped passengers say that the personnel was rude, inattentive to their needs, and disregarded their requests.
If you’re flying with a disability, another suitable airline is JetBlue. They do their best to ensure smooth air travel for disabled passengers.
People with disabilities can request wheelchair service when they book a flight through the website/app by adding a Special Service Request (SSP).
No worries if you forget to do it, you can always call the provided number and add an SSP with no additional cost.
Moreover, people with disabilities can board the plane early as long as they’re at the gate when pre-boarding starts. That’s why it’s a good idea to be at the airport a couple of hours before departure.
Customers like that JetBlue has ample seating options for the disabled and has their personal wheelchair available at the gate or baggage claim.
The airline also transports most types of wheelchairs and assistive devices and has one manual lightweight folding wheelchair in the cabin upon request.
However, travelers with disabilities should know that level entry or jetbridge access isn’t available in every city.
But JetBlue’s team has tools at their disposal to ensure their passengers board the plane and deplane without much struggle.
Passengers with disabilities can also rely on in-flight assistance with stowing/retrieving their assistive devices and carry-on baggage, opening food/drinks, and moving to and from the lavatories.
Customers’ reviews are also positive when it comes to how JetBlue handles travelers with disabilities. But some do note that the bathroom is small and not accessible for wheelchairs.
Still, JetBlue remains one of the best domestic airlines for people flying with a disability.
6 Best International Airlines For Disabled Passengers
Flighting from one country to another is a little more complicated than domestic flights when it comes to disabled people.
That’s because different countries might have specific rules about traveling with medical equipment, accessibility equipment, and service animals.
Still, these six best airlines for disabled passengers do their best to ensure a smooth international flight. Let’s see them.
Emirates takes its job seriously when it comes to hearing and visionary-impaired passengers and people with reduced mobility.
They’ve got monitors displaying flight information and closed captions on movies to ensure that their passengers don’t get bored for hearing-impaired customers.
Blind passengers can count on the Meet and Assist service to make it to and from the aircraft without problems. The same goes for people in wheelchairs.
Emirates also has wheelchairs available at all locations and onboard wheelchairs on all aircraft flights to facilitate customers with disabilities.
To receive the best assistance possible, handicapped travelers should specify what type of help they require at the time of booking. It should be at least 48 hours before the flight.
We also like Emirates because they transport power/manual wheelchairs and assistive devices. But they have to meet certain criteria, especially if they have batteries.
In-flight attendants can also help with carry-on items and assistive devices. Pre-boarding is also available for any passenger with special needs.
For the utmost accessible travel, Emirates provides onboard therapeutic oxygen at no extra cost. Portable oxygen concentrators are also allowed on board, as well as other types of ventilation and respiratory devices.
Moreover, most planes have aisle chairs with movable armrests to make them wheelchair accessible.
Unfortunately, only guide dogs can travel in the cabin. All other service animals fly as manifested cargo.
Emirate’s Complain Resolution Officials are also experts on disability regulations and can help with any inquires, concerns, or complaints.
Overall, customers’ experiences with Emirate are good, and they complement the staff and the airline personnel.
#2 Qatar Airlines
Another international airline that deserves our is Qatar Airlines. It makes our list of the best airlines for disabled passengers because it takes great care of any passengers with disabilities.
For starters, Qatar offers wheelchair service, accessible seating selection, and escort for vision-impaired travelers, among a few.
Through “Manage booking,” wheelchair users and disabled passengers can request different types of assistance or alert their travel agent to make the necessary arrangements.
For wheelchair users, Qatar Airlines transports wheelchairs and walking aids for the elderly free of charge. Passengers can also count on wheelchair service at the airport, assistance to board, and onboard wheelchairs on certain flights.
Moreover, Qatar Airlines has aisle seats with movable armrests to make it easy for disabled travelers to move to and from their seats whenever they need.
Most airplanes also have toilets with handrails, but there’s no mention of accessible toilets for wheelchair users.
Qatar Airlines provides safety videos with subtitles in English and Arabic for hearing-impaired air travelers, while vision-impaired persons receive Braille safety cards from the cabin crew.
Assistance dogs are allowed on board, and where countries allow it, air travelers can have up to two dogs in the cabin during international flights. Like most major airlines, service animals travel free of charge.
However, customers have a mixed experience with Qatar Airlines and their aircraft.
Some complement the airline employees for making travel accessible for people in wheelchairs and those with vision, hearing, and mental disabilities.
Others say that the cabin crew is rude and doesn’t know how to provide the right kind of assistance for disabled passengers.
#3 Air Canada
Air Canada is also among the most popular airlines that provide special services for passengers with disabilities and wheelchair users. Still, they do require 48 hours’ notice.
In general, Air Canada offers assistance with check-in, security clearances, advancing to the ticket counter, and boarding.
During the flight, flight attendants also provide personal safety instructions, store/retrieve carry-on baggage, and help passengers access the in-flight entertainment service.
Aircraft also have a large bathroom available, located in the Economy class to accommodate passengers with disabilities. Most flights also have accessible toilets to accommodate wheelchair users and onboard wheelchairs.
Once disabled travelers reach their destination, the personnel helps through border clearance and retrieving checked-in baggage.
Air Canada also transports mobility devices and medical devices as long as they meet their requirements. The airline advises passengers to contact the Medical Assistance Desk at least 48 hours before departure.
Small mobility equipment, such as walking canes, crutches, braces, and walkers, can be put in the cabin free of charge if they fit.
Unfortunately, Air Canada doesn’t accept emotional support animals in the cabin, but trained service dogs can travel free of charge.
#4 Virgin Atlantic
It’s no wonder that Virgin Atlantic makes the list of the best airlines for disabled passengers since it provides assistance from the departure gate to the arrival gate.
Virgin Atlantic has wheelchairs available at most airport locations to transport disabled passengers to and from the aircraft.
Onboard wheelchairs are also available on every flight, and there’s space for one manual collapsable wheelchairs on airplanes with enough storage space.
Moreover, priority boarding is available for anyone that needs extra time to get on the plane. Small mobility aids can stay in the cabin and don’t count toward free baggage allowance.
The airline can also arrange one cabin crew member who knows British Sign Language for hearing-impaired travelers, but this service can take a couple of months to organize.
For visually-impaired customers, safety booklets are available in large print and braille, while videos have captions for people with hearing problems.
Special seating is available for disabled passengers, but most bulkhead seats don’t have movable aisle armrests. Still, most onboard lavatories are wheelchair accessible for passengers with disabilities.
When it comes to mobility service dogs and guide dogs, they’ve got several policies and don’t accept all breeds, as most airlines do.
Disabled passengers should read their section on traveling with service animals carefully to ensure they have all the necessary documents. The same goes for people traveling with medical equipment.
To ensure safe travel and the best seating accommodations, passengers should contact Virgin Atlantic and their Special Assistance team at least 48 before departure.
In general, Virgin Atlantic is one of the favorite airlines of many handicapped persons, and they share that the airline crew offers ample assistance during take-off and landing.
To ensure accessible travel, Lufthansa offers three ways for disabled passengers to specify what type of assistance they need.
Passengers can alert the airline online, through Lufthansa Service Centre, or by phone at least 48 hours before the flight. Otherwise, Lufthansa doesn’t guarantee they can make the necessary accommodations.
At the airport, people with restricted mobility can use a wheelchair free of charge or have the company transport their folding power chair for free.
Some electric wheelchairs are subject to transport restrictions depending on the type of battery. Restrictions also apply to some manual wheelchairs, such as size and weight.
Lufthansa recommends that airline passengers arrive at the special assistance desk and check-in counter at least 90 minutes early for the best possible service.
During the flights, the flight crew assists people with disabilities to the best of their ability with carrying/stowing items, assisting to and from the bathroom accommodations.
The good news is that long-haul flights have accessible bathrooms, but the washing area might be cramped. For other flights, passengers can rely on the onboard wheelchair to reach the lavatory.
Most persons with disabilities have an excellent opinion of Lufthansa and the assistance service they provide. They’re happy with the airplane seats, the wheelchair assistance, and the airline crew’s behavior.
However, some note that they had to wait a long time in a queue and didn’t have the option to pre-board.
#6 Qantas Airline
Qantas Airline is the last in our list of the best airlines for disabled passengers, but certainly not the least. The airline offers plenty of services for disabled people to ensure maximum comfort during the entire flight.
Booking can be made online, through the Qantas office, or by a travel agent. But the airline has to know that a person will require special assistance at least 48 hours before the flight.
Like other airlines, they have wheelchair assistance available. They can help anyone with physical disabilities or mental ones check in their baggage or reach the departure gate.
In-flight, travelers can request assistance to stow their baggage and access the restrooms.
All wide-bodied aircraft also have at least one wheelchair-accessible toilet. But narrow planes don’t due to size restrictions.
While most Qantas Airline’s planes have onboard wheelchairs for assistance to and from the lavatory, some don’t. That’s something disabled people should inquire about before purchasing a ticket.
Qantas’s Airbus 380 and Boeing 787 flights have dedicated storage space for one manual wheelchair for mobility. Disabled people can request it during check-in, but it’s on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Small mobility aids can be stored inside the cabin with the help of airline attendants. But there are some restrictions based on the size, weight, and features of the aids (battery, folding, etc.).
Qantas also ensures passengers with specific needs get aisles with movable armrests and are seated as close to the accessible toilet (if there’s one) as possible.
They also accommodate seating requests, allow service animals, and organize a special meal for people with dietary needs.
As you can see, you’ve got plenty of options when it comes to flying handicapped and don’t have to worry about being discriminated against because of your disability.
In case accommodations can’t be made for your current flight, the airline will offer your several flight options suitable for your type of disability.
Whichever is your airline of choice, keep in mind that no airline is permitted to carry a disabled person in the arms of airline personnel.
If you need that kind of assistance, you should check the rules for traveling with a caregiver.
Moreover, since airplanes have limited wheelchair stowage locations, you should make reservations as soon as possible. Then all that’s left is to enjoy your journey as much as you can.
What do you think about these 9 best airlines for disabled passengers and wheelchair users? Have you ever used them? Share your experience about flying with a disability in the comment section!
Dayna has an incredible passion for helping others and a background as an in-home caregiver for the elderly. She left the field temporarily three years ago to stay at home with her twins, but found that she really missed working with senior citizens. She launched LoAids as a way to help not just her own loved ones and former clients, but ALL seniors live life to the fullest in their golden years. Follow her on LINKEDIN and TWITTER