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Looking for tips for managing air travel for a person who uses a walker (rollator). I know about arranging for a wheelchair in the airport and for getting on and off the plane, but how does the person manage the restroom on a long flight? How can they move up and down the aisle, given how narrow the aisles are on many planes? More important, how can they use the restroom itself? Airplane restrooms are difficult even for the able bodied! Wearing "adult" underwear I'm sure would be helpful in case of emergency, but far from ideal.

Call the airline in advance. They will provide:
Passengers who are non-ambulatory can still fly, but they’ll need help getting to and from their seat on the airplane. The aisle chair (also referred to as a straight back or high back) is a small wheelchair that is used to transport immobile passengers from their own wheelchair to a seat on the airplane. Aisle chairs are used during enplaning and deplaning, and can also be used during the flight to access the lavatory.

Stay home if possible. You may have real trouble if anyone in your party gets Covid on your trip, and cannot return home.
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Reply to Sendhelp
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I have Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia which is a degenerative upper motor neuron disease which affects my mobility. I have flown several times.

When you purchase your tickets, try to always get a direct flight. Always tell the airline you are traveling with a mobility impaired person and you will get priority boarding. (BTW, use a wheelchair through the airport! Going through security, is easy. TSA will take everything and usher you to a special screening where the person in the wheelchair doesn’t need to take off their shoes! Southwest’s TSA PRECHECK
is a great idea if possible.)

RR before flight boards is essential! I try to only fly 3 hours or less. Limit liquid intake during flight. (Wear support socks and stretch often to avoid leg cramps. You’ll need to do this even though you’re in a car!)

You will be able to take the wheelchair right up to the plane. You will be able to use the airplane’s aisle transport chair or walk with help from caregiver or flight attendants. They will seat you automatically at the bulkhead anyway. I usually choose the aisle for the added legroom for my braces.

Wear a disposable brief with a thick pad, too. If you can’t walk at all, the airplane’s lavatory is impossible. I use the RR as soon as I get off the plane before going to claim the luggage!

I’m always the last to deplane. It gives the airline time to bring up my wheelchair from the cargo or have one delivered. Then I can deplane at my own unhurried pace. The flight crew is always good at helping me.

If taking a car, stop often to use RR and stretch.

The biggest takeaway is don’t be afraid of traveling—just be prepared.
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GardenArtist Jan 23, 2022
Excellent advice, especially since it's based on experience.
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I flew with my Mom once. Talked with the airline ahead of time. Did everything that was recommended. It was horrible and I know many were inconvenienced by my mom. I rented a car and drove home - almost 2000 miles. I never took her more than a two hour car ride after that. It was horrible. Trying to deal with bathrooms, the rollator, mom's stuff, etc. It was no vacation...
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againx100 Jan 26, 2022
Sounds horrible. I was thinking the short answer to how to do this is: DON'T.
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I recommend flying business or first class.

You will have space, I don't think a person that is mobility challenged can get in the ridiculously small coach seats. You have to shuffle sideways to get in them.

Call the airline that you are flying and ask to speak with someone to help you maneuver this trip. They are usually super helpful, they want you to have a good flight. Ask about a mobility ride, they can transport you on a golfcart.

Ask the flight attendant in flight to confirm the wheelchair/transport, them not being there is fairly common, it is the airport that does this, not the airline.

I would think that the small bathroom would actually be convenient for someone using a walker. I have seen flight attendant holding up a blanket at the bathroom, perhaps it was someone needing help, I didn't pay attention to who came out.

Best luck for a successful flight.
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Reply to Isthisrealyreal
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BurntCaregiver Jan 21, 2022
Definitely fly first-class. It is impossible for someone to get around coach with a walker.
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I had the experience of flying (in coach, cause I'm cheap) and an elderly gent flying with his daughter(?) had a masssive fecal blowout. I'm like, 2 rows behind him. HE was mortified, his daughter was, the plane was a stinking toilet for the rest of the 2 hr flight and they went in to the bathroom and did not come out for ages. I don't know HOW they managed a cleanup in that tiny space. He came out with a blanket wrapped around him and was last to de-plane.

People were gagging from the smell, and I admit I was one. I mean, we all tried to be kind, b/c in the back of minds there's this 'this could be me!' but it was awful.

They did give us extra cookies, but really, nobody felt like eating.

I would go first class only if I had this situation. Planes seem to be smaller and smaller. What is now first class was business class just a few years ago.

Sometimes we just have to face the fact that flying, although so much faster, is not the best route. Mom wanted to see her OB one last time and even though the flight was 75 minutes start to finish, she was terrified she'd have and accident. We ended up just not going. OS and I had 1st class seats and we'd planned this trip to the nth degree, but the fear of offending others on the plane made mom pull out at the last minute.
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geddyupgo Jan 24, 2022
God bless your Mom!!
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I'm not sure a walker fits down an airplane aisle... can they use a cane? You'll have to figure out if you should walk in front of or behind them because once you're in motion you won't be able to switch.

And you definitely won't be able to fit in the plane's washroom to help. I don't think keeping the door ajar is an option but you can wait outside. Limit their liquids before and during the flight and outfit them with a very absorbent brief. Make sure they are in the middle seat and you're in the aisle seat...it's too tight a fit to scoot towards the window. Or, they are in the aisle seat and you are in the aisle seat on the opposite side across the aisle. FYI the arm of the aisle seat does go up if you feel underneath it towards the back.

Most of all, pay for a direct flight.
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Myownlife Jan 23, 2022
Another point might be that as most airlines have 3 seats in a row, perhaps book all three seats. Otherwise, the window seat passenger may need to get up which would mean having to get up and step into the aisle to accommodate.
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Along with wearing the "disposable briefs" it really helps to add a thick pad. This way you don't have to change everything but only the pad unless both the pad and the briefs are soiled. I do this even traveling by car. If the person wears long or even short pants you have to remove everything to change the briefs. I have found "pull ups" that tear away at the side then have tabs to refasten worked well. These could be used without removing the outside pants. If they don't normally wear briefs, I would try some before you leave home to see how well they fit and how well they hold up once soiled. I have found the one with tabs so not work as well with a person who is mobile.
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Reply to KPWCSC
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We had that situation with my dad years ago. Mobility can be managed with the on-flight wheel chair, unless the person is morbidly obese. Do not fly on long flights with someone who cannot manage in the lavatory by themselves. The last time we took him on a trip Dad had an accidental bowel movement. He was wearing depends, but due to the smell he had to be cleaned up mid flight. It was beyond challenging. The lavatory had to be closed afterwards. This flight was less than 3 hours. Incontinence is a more serious issue for flying.
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Reply to DrBenshir
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I can't imagine where he MUST GO and that is has to be by plane. I would never, ever attempt to fly due to the confinement and limited spaces - I am handicapped and would never again fly. I would find another way.
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newbiewife: Although airlines can accommodate a passenger with health issues by boarding and deplaning ahead of time, having specialized assistance from the flight attendants, etc., the problem of using a walker or a Rollator on an airplane (a no) and toileting assist for a passenger who is not mobile still exists. I suggest that the individual not fly in an airplane. If they were to wear an adult diaper, it may be quite uncomfortable not only for the wearer, but the other passengers IF the wearer has to 'use' the diaper (defecation) as a toilet in flight.
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