Sometime ago, I had the pleasure of demoing and delivering a Trekinetic chair to Helen …
Thank you so much for your help with everything. We went straight out after lunch on Sunday – just being able to go out for a “walk” as a family was so liberating!
Unfortunately I’ve been working all week since but I’m getting the hang of it indoors, and really looking forward to getting out and about over half term.
Photos to follow!
And that was the start …
In the years that Helen had the chair she has been to and seen some amazing sites. Below are some pictures of Helen on her travels. However, preparing for a flight to New York was something new and certainly needed some pre flight planning.
Helen has been kind enough to send us the following so that others preparing to fly with a wheelchair may benefit.
“I flew for the first time as a wheelchair user last October, from London to New York, so the whole thing was new to me. Generally speaking, United Airlines and the airport staff, particularly at Heathrow, seem to be efficient, but I was pretty nervous about handing over my brilliant chair to them. We had no problems with the handling of the chair, just a bit of difficulty persuading the American, Newark end that my battery was a) safe for flying and b) essential!
Contact the airline in plenty of time, to let them know what you’re bringing and how they can help you.
Most of the airlines ask you to fill in an information sheet (found in the disabled travellers section of their website) to tell them about your chair, where the brakes are, how to pick it up and how to tie it down in the hold. Don’t be afraid to annotate it as much as is needed. I included a photo of my own chair with instructions, and copied the guidance for aircraft travel from the Trekinetic manual, laminated both and tied them to my chair. I had a couple of spares too just in case.
Check with the airline that your battery is safe for flying – you will have to take it in your hand luggage. I took the charger in hand luggage too, as it would be a disaster if my hold luggage got lost with it in! Copy the details about the battery from the Trekinetic manual and take a few to show to airport staff if necessary.
Tighten all the nuts and bolts before you go – there’s a lot of vibration in an aircraft and things do work loose.
Take a small toolkit – a bike spanner and the appropriate allen keys will do.
Ask to check your chair in at the gate rather than with your hold luggage. This will mean that you are in your chair right up to boarding the aircraft and they only have to take it a very short distance = much less likely to disappear! .
Announce yourself at the gate as soon as you can. Disabled passengers will be boarded first. They should give you a receipt for your chair too. You’ll be disembarked last, but your chair will be waiting for you at the door of the aircraft. Check it over for damage straight away.
For the powerchair, remove the joystick and take it in your hand luggage. It’s easy and quick enough to do this in the departure lounge.
I wrapped cohesive bandage (the stuff that only sticks to itself) around the handles to protect the foam.
In the departure lounge take a bunch of photos of your chair, clearly showing its condition before you hand it over.
You don’t want the seat cushion to get misplaced – either take the cushion into the airplane with you or get a rucksack cover which will fit perfectly around the “tub” of your chair (medium sized – mine is for a 35-55L rucksack). Fix the footplate in the raised position, the seat upright and the armrests up.
Do make sure that the baggage handlers who come to take your chair and put it in the hold understand your instructions and the importance of doing it right. It is their responsibility to get your (very expensive and essential) wheelchair safely from one end to the other.
By the way, New York is an awesome place to visit in your Trekinetic!
If any body else has any useful tips we would love to hear from you!