How to Make Flying With Physical Disabilities Less Stressful: A Fully Accessible Guide

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If you’re nervous or anxious about flying with a physical disability, it may not be as bad as you think!

Many airports and airlines have specific policies and procedures to improve accessibility and assist those who are traveling with a physical disability.  So if you combine their services with the perks from one of the best airline credit cards, you’ll be able to make your journey much more comfortable! Many of these cards have perks like airport lounge access and priority boarding which can make your flying experience much less stressful and more accessible.

For example, having access to an airport lounge through your credit card can provide you with a calmer atmosphere while you wait for your flight.  And priority boarding can help you board earlier and get settled into your seat before everyone else so you don’t feel rushed.  Miles and points can also make Business or First Class seats attainable for folks who need extra legroom, which comes in handy on a long flight!

With an airline card, you’ll save money by booking award flights with miles and points. 

Image of wheelchair user traveling through an airport terminal.
Flying With a Disability Doesn’t Have to Be Stressful!  Your Travel Can Be More Comfortable and Accessible If You Take Advantage of These Perks

I’ll share what to look out for when you going through the airport and boarding your flight.  And I’ll cover how perks on some of the best airline credit cards can enhance your entire flying experience.

Arriving at the Airport

In planning your arrival to the airport, you’ll be happy to know that the airline likely has procedures in place to help those flying with a physical disability.  You’ll be able to plan ahead because many airports list accessibility services on their website, such as handicap parking locations, wheelchair services, service animal relief areas, accessible restrooms, and more.

Depending on which airport you’ll be departing from, you may need to call ahead to reserve certain services.

We’ve listed the top 15 airports in the US along with some of their accessibility information:

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Not All Airports Are Created Equal

If you’re looking for an airport that make accessibility a priority, there are some that stand out above the rest based on reports from people in online forums.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport has been said to be one of the most accessible airports in the world.  In addition to the usual services like service animal relief areas, wheelchair services, and accessible restrooms, the airport also provides:

  • Quiet room for prayer, meditation, or just a simple break from the fast-paced airport environment
  • PHX Sky Cart, an electric cart that transports you between terminals
  • Dial-A-Ride public service for seniors and people with disabilities daily from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm
  • PHX Sky Train which provides a fully accessible connection between the airport terminals and Valley Metro Rail at the 44th Street station
  • Rental cars with hand controls with Avis, Budget, Hertz, and National
  • And much more!

Chicago O’Hare International

Chicago O’Hare International Airport also offers a plethora of services for folks traveling with physical disabilities.  It has the usual amenities like service animal relief areas and wheelchair services, as well as the following:

  • More than 300+ accessible parking spaces located near elevators, sidewalks, bus stops, and the Airport Transit System
  • Terminal transfer bus
  • Rental car companies located nearby with hand-controlled vehicles for persons with mobility impairments
  • Multiple public transportation services that are wheelchair accessible, including more than 300+ accessible taxicabs

San Francisco International

Many individuals online have also spoken very highly of San Francisco International, and it’s easy to see why!  For those traveling with physical disabilities, the airport offers many services to make your experience as smooth as possible:

  • Accessible parking services
  • Wheelchair accessible AirTrain
  • Ramps through public areas to allow for easy mobility
  • Companion care restrooms

But even if you won’t be flying out of one of these airports, most major airports will have accessibility services available to significantly enhance your travel experience!

If you have one of the best airline credit cards with premium travel perks, you’ll be able to make your airport experience much more enjoyable.  You’ll want to check to see which benefits your specific card offers:

  • Free checked bags – This perk can come in particularly handy and save you money if you need to carry medical equipment on your flight
  • TSA PreCheck – Speed through security checkpoints more quickly and easily with TSA PreCheck!  You won’t be required to remove shoes, liquids, belts, or light jackets.  And you won’t have to wait as long because TSA PreCheck lines are usually shorter than the regular lines
  • Airport lounge access – Have a quiet area to relax before your flight, away from the busy fast-paced environment of the airport!
  • Trip delay insurance – If you end up having to purchase additional supplies as a result of a delayed flight, you might be able to receive reimbursement for those costs!  You’ll just need to check with your specific card issuer’s terms and conditions to determine under what circumstances you’ll be eligible for reimbursement
Picture of an empty airport lounge, providing a quiet place to relax before your flight
You Can Make Use of Airport Lounges to Have a Quiet Place to Relax Before Your Flight

Boarding the Plane

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While every airline has slightly different policies and accommodations available, most of the major airlines listed above have written policies in place for what to expect when traveling with a wheelchair, portable oxygen concentrators, and other medical devices.

So if you’re trying to choose which airline, it’s best to focus on where you’ll have access to the most beneficial perks based on your elite status with a particular airline, or any benefits you may receive from certain airline credit cards.

And depending on your travel preferences, you may want to book non-stop flights when possible, because being able to avoid a situation with multiple connecting flights should make your overall flying experience much easier, even if it does end up being a little more expensive.

Although the most stressful part of the airport might be over now that you’ve passed security and are about to board your plane, credit card perks on one of the best airline credit cards can still be beneficial for you at this stage!

If you have priority boarding for instance, you’ll be able to board the airplane before the majority of other passengers, so you’ll have more time to get into your seat without the rush from everyone else.

Arriving at Your Destination

Once you arrive at your destination, you’ll likely have to wait for all other passengers to exit the plane first.  Depending on which airport you’ll be flying into, you may be able to rent a car with hand controls or other accessibility devices, although this may require an advance reservation.

If renting a car is not an option, there are a few other services that can take you from the airport to your hotel:

  • UberWAV wheelchair accessible vans
  • Lyft with accessible vehicle dispatch
  • Wheelchair accessible taxicabs
Picture of a wheelchair accessible van with a wheelchair ramp
Wheelchair Accessible Vans, Like UberWAV, Can Get You From the Airport to Your Final Destination!

Even after you’ve landed, there are still a few perks from your credit cards you may be able to take advantage of!

For instance, if you’ll be renting a car, you can check to see if your credit card offers primary rental insurance.  If it does, you can confidently waive the insurance coverage offered by the rental agency and be covered for damage due to theft or collision in most cases.

And if your luggage did not make it through, you may be able to file a claim through your credit card company with baggage delay coverage.

Bottom Line

Many airports have policies and procedures in place to assist those who are flying with a physical disability, so it’s not nearly as stressful as you may think!  Many of the major airline websites list information like handicap parking locations, service animal relief areas, wheelchair services, and more so that you won’t run into any surprises when you arrive at the airport.

And perks on some of the best airline credit cards can make your experience at the airport much more enjoyable.

Miles and points can also make it more affordable to book a Business or First Class tickets for more legroom, which can be great on a long flight.  Other perks like priority boarding can allow you to board the plane and get settled before everyone else so that you don’t feel rushed.

If you have traveled with a physical disability and found these perks helpful, we’d love to hear your story in the comments below!

Accessibility Notice

Our “How to Make Flying With Disabilities Less Stressful” was written and designed to meet the needs of our readers with disabilities.  This content was created for complete interpretation by all readers, including those who utilize voice assist and other assistive technologies.

This guide was published in accordance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, which can be found at https://www.w3.org/TR/2008/REC-WCAG20-20081211/, and meets Level A conformance guidelines.

This conformance is claimed only for the content on this specific webpage:  https://millionmilesecrets.com/guides/how-to-make-flying-with-disabilities-less-stressful/

Andrew Wan is a contributor for Million Mile Secrets where he covers points, miles, credit cards, airlines and hotels. His work has also appeared in The Simple Dollar.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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