Mobility scooters and air travel – What you need to know prior to taking off

First and foremost, we want to highlight that you are not alone wanting to take your mobility scooter with you while traveling by air. There are hundreds of thousands of others who also want to be able to get around on their travels, just like they do at home. Your mobility scooter is a great asset to you at home. Likewise, it will be able to provide you with the comfort and freedom you want to experience when traveling to another state or even on a vacation in another country. There are a lot of misleading information to be found on the internet so with our background and knowledge in the electric transportation business we thought we’d shed some light upon what actually is correct. So fear not, we are here to help guide you through all the rules and regulations all the way to your plane.

Prepare your trip well ahead

Planning well and time is essentialMany people think that you cannot travel with a mobility scooter because of its lead acid or lithium battery. This is not the case, all mobility scooters and power wheelchairs for that matter are equipped with non-spillable lead acid batteries or lithium-ion batteries. That said, they are fully capable of being taken onboard an airplane.

The domestic and international rules are different so if you are considering going on an international trip while still taking your mobility scooter with you. Then you will do best by contacting your airline prior to reserving your tickets in order to make sure that they can help you with your mobility device on your way back. Taking the time to prepare yourself and your electric vehicle is of utmost importance when you’re planning a trip.

Start preparing well-before the date of your flight and you will save yourself a lot of problems. Having a lightweight and portable travel mobility scooter will also make the traveling process a lot easier. Heavy-duty models are big and not suitable for air travels by no means.

Important facts

The misleading information that floats around on various forums about air travels and mobility scooters have and can often frighten people from taking their mobility device with them. Often do we hear about the rules being so hard and one of the most common questions that we get are that the batteries are said to be unsafe for taking onboard an airplane. Sure, there are regulations, but most travel mobility scooters and power wheelchair batteries are non-spillable meaning they do not contain liquid. Thanks to their design there are no restrictions against them being taken onboard a plane. The picture below illustrates the most commonly used battery in mobility scooters.non-spillable lead acid battery commonly used in mobility scooters

Apart from normal batteries that can be found in automotive and marine boats, these batteries have no cap on them that could eventually leak or disperse gas out of its container. These batteries use a new technology of glass mats that hold the lead in place. This removes the risk of lead leakage and lets the gas spread out evenly within the container.
However, when it comes to lithium-ion batteries you need to handle them properly in order to be able to travel safely with your disability scooter. They may never exceed 300 amp hours (all batteries combined). The total battery capacity of a travel mobility scooter is often split amongst more than one battery. For example: For 12v you have one battery, 24v scooters have two, and for 36v there are three batteries. In order for you to take your scooter equipped with lithium batteries on your travels, the batteries need to be in a sealed container and they must not be connected to the vehicle during transport. On our second picture below you will find a lithium battery disconnected from a mobility scooter.

detach the battery from a scooter

You have the right by law to travel

ADADid you know that no matter what type of disability you suffer from it is your right by law to be able to use public places?

It is written in the Americans with Disabilities Act. The act tells us that all public places and public transportation services must be able to accommodate people with disabilities. Also according to the FDA(Food and Drug Administration), mobility scooters are classified as medical equipment.

So why do we go through all this? Well, it all comes down to your rights as a human being. This means that you can travel by airplane with any type of mobility scooter, of any size. As long as the batteries are compliant with the FAA regulations(Federal Aviation Administration) you are good to go. The FAA regulates what types of batteries may be taken onboard an Airbus in the United States. For lead-acid batteries, any size is acceptable and in accordance with their rules. When it comes to lithium-ion batteries the rules differ, these batteries may never exceed 300 amp hours and the lithium batteries used in mobility scooters rarely does. These are often capped at 200aH or 2000mAh if you prefer those numbers as those are more commonly used when talking about battery power. If you want to be 100% sure you can buy a set of non-spillable lead-acid batteries as a backup if you’re feeling unsure.

Two step process of traveling with a mobility scooter

This part is set up as a small guide on how the process of traveling by air safely and easily with your mobility device is done. First, we want to make sure that you already know that there is no extra cost involved, it is free of charge to take your mobility scooter with you on your travels with a U.S based airline. If you have yet to find a good travel companion you can check out our comparison of the best electric mobility scooters.

Phase one – Planning ahead

plan your trip with a mobility scooter wellWhen you make your ticket reservation you also need to inform the customer service representative that you will be traveling with a mobility scooter. Remember that there is no extra luggage cost and that you have the law on your side when it comes to taking your medical device with you. So if they start telling you otherwise just say ADA and let’s see how fast their tune will change.

Be prepared to give them the necessary information about your mobility scooter. What information you need to disclose can be found in your user manual. Most airlines are interested in know the brand and model, what type of battery it runs on and its power.

All airlines have their own rules and guidelines which you must comply with, so make sure they let you know exactly what they want from you prior to check-in.

Phase two – The boarding process

check-in processWhen you first arrive at the airport you will have to go through the check in process, at this point you will get more detailed information from the customer service clerk about how their airline will handle your transport. A worker will most often take your mobility scooter from the check in all the way to the plane. You, on the other hand, will be transported with a wheelchair by an airline worker through all the security check points. Since you are disabled you will get to go into the plane first and the airline workers will transport you all the way to your seat and make sure you are comfortable.

When you finally arrive at your destination of choice you will get the same treatment all the way to the baggage claim where the airline workers will personally get you your mobility scooter back. People working at airlines are very familiar with these types of conditions and mobility scooters so you can rest assure you and your scooter are in great capable hands.

photograph your mobility scooter prior to loadingIt is of utmost importance that you take pictures of your mobility scooters condition prior to check in. Make sure that prior to handing over your mobility scooter you take a couple of pictures of its condition. The airline has a warranty on these type of devices just like lost luggage, but damage claims can be harder to go through if you have no evidence of the scooters condition prior to your travel. If your mobility scooter is damaged during the flight you will be very happy that you spent a few minutes taking pictures of it. It will drastically help your case when claiming for the damages that occurred during the flight and remember that damage claims must be done immediately to the customer service after you’ve received your mobility scooter. So make sure you check it thoroughly straight away. Most of the time the damages that have occurred to people’s mobility scooters are due to a worker dropping the scooter, or turbulence in the air.

Recap of the important steps of traveling with a mobility scooter

Here you can read about the most important steps that you will need to follow in order for you to travel worry-free with a mobility scooter. If you follow these guidelines you can not only save yourself a lot of money but also time.

  1. Remember that traveling with a mobility scooter is free of charge per ADA and Federal Laws.
  2. Notify the airline customer service representative straight away about your mobility device.
  3. Get in touch with your doctor to get documentation for your disabilities and that a mobility scooter is needed. Also, fill out the necessary airline paperwork.
  4. Document your mobility scooters condition with pictures prior to check-in.
  5. Make sure you get the assistance needed to retrieve your mobility scooter at the baggage claim after your arrival.

Well, what about international flights?

taking your mobility scooter on international flightsThe rules of international flights are different between each country. While traveling within the U.S all airlines have to be in accordance with ADA, this is not the case when traveling on an international level.

If you want to travel to another country make sure to speak with your airline of choice so that you are sure they can help you with your mobility scooter on the way home. There shouldn’t be a problem to travel to another country and back home, but you need to plan ahead in order to make your ride back home a smooth one. Find the best airline that is willing to help you by asking them before reserving a ticket. If you follow this pattern all you need to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy your trip. Safe travels!

Resources for more information

Our guide to the Pros and Cons of Lithium-ion and Lead-Acid batteries:

Guide to Lithium-ion and Lead Acid Batteries

The following are some very helpful resources to where you can find more information about the topic:

FAA – Regulations of lithium-ion batteries

The laws regarding lithium-ion batteries commonly used in new electric mobility scooters.

FAA – Regulations of traveling with non-spillable lead acid batteries

The FAA regulations on non-spillable lead acid batteries and how they need to be assembled and removed while traveling.

ADA – Americans with Disabilities Act

The laws of ADA, here you can find all the information you might need about what type of rights you have as a disabled person.

Department of Justice – ADA

Find out more about ADA at the department of transportation.

Traveling patterns and problems of disabled people

More information about common problems and the public transportation patterns of disabled people.

Models suitable for seniors

Here we help you find the best mobility scooter option as a traveling senior.

2 Comments
  1. Reply
    Barbara Escamilla August 9, 2017 at 10:56 am

    Very Useful Article! People with wheelchairs are always in dilemma regarding traveling. Lightweight and foldable wheelchairs really makes traveling much more easier as compared to heavy one. One of my friends who is wheelchair bounded specially purchased foldable wheelchair for traveling from spinlife and enjoyed his trip. Before traveling, Make sure you are comfortable with your mobility device. Get all necessary information about device.

    • Reply
      Tobias September 2, 2017 at 7:55 am

      Thank you, Barbara.
      You are 100% correct that foldable units are preferred by most people who need some sort of mobility aid during their travels. If you have any feedback on things we might have overlooked feel free to give us the feedback. Best wishes, Tobias.

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