SENIOR LOOKOUT: Have medical issues and flying? Here’s some travel tips | News


This Saturday, Aug. 19, is National Aviation Day. The holiday was established in 1939 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who issued a presidential proclamation which designated the anniversary of Orville Wright’s birthday as National Aviation Day.

Next year, I may be traveling with my parents. I’ve been wondering about the challenges that we may face as they are both in their 80s and have some medical challenges that might make traveling tricky.

My mother has some mobility issues and may need a wheelchair to get through the airport itself. Airports usually have wheelchairs that you can borrow while you’re checking in and moving to the gate area. But, it’s a good idea to call ahead and ask if you can reserve a wheelchair. You can use a borrowed wheelchair up to the gate, where you can transfer to an airplane chair. If you will need a wheelchair to use the bathroom in flight, be sure to contact the airline in advance. Most airlines need at least 48 hours notice to ensure that an onboard wheelchair is in place.

If you are traveling with your own wheelchair, you can check it at the gate so that you have it available until you board the plane. Airlines are required to allow all wheelchairs on the plane, including battery-powered wheelchairs.

Keep these things in mind when flying with a wheelchair:

Include assembly and disassembly instructions on the wheelchair itself. This makes the process easier if the chair needs to be disassembled for storage during the flight.

Make sure the wheelchair is in good condition before the flight. If the wheelchair is damaged or has problems already, the trip on an airplane may cause additional issues.

Label any detachable parts of the wheelchair with a name and address in case they get separated during the flight.

Remove leg supports and extra seat cushions when possible before the wheelchair goes into the cargo area to prevent those items from falling off or getting damaged.

Both of my parents have a significant number of medications. Keeping their medications safe during travel will be a priority. Use these tips when flying:

Bring a copy of prescriptions and medical statements and declare all medications and medically necessary liquids before going through the security checkpoint.

Pack the medication in a carry-on to make sure it arrives at the destination. If the medication needs to be kept cold, pack it with an ice pack or two.

Leave medication in its original packaging with clear labeling.

Label any medically necessary liquids to expedite the security process. Medications, creams and medically necessary liquids are allowed in amounts larger than the usual 3.4-ounce limit in your carry-on. You also don’t have to place the liquids in a zip-top bag. Keep in mind, additional screening may be necessary if the liquids set off any security alarms.

The Air Carrier Access Act states that airlines cannot refuse to let passengers with a disability on a flight unless the medical situation affects the safety of the flight. It also prohibits airlines from requiring advance notice of a passenger with a disability. If you need special accommodations, such as respirator hook-up, the airline may require 48 hours’ notice.

If you do encounter a problem while traveling, don’t wait until your trip is complete to speak up. The U.S. Department of Transportation advises that you can request to speak with the airline’s Complaint Resolution Official (CRO) or a supervisor. A CRO is the airline’s expert on disability-related issues in air travel and has the authority to resolve complaints on behalf of the airline. Every airline must have a CRO available either by telephone or in-person during operating hours.

Air travelers who experience disability-related problems may call the U.S. Department of Transportation toll-free hotline for air travelers with disabilities 1-800-778-4838 to obtain assistance. The hours for the hotline are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday, except federal holidays.

While you aren’t required to disclose a disability ahead of time, working with the airline can prevent any issues on travel day. You can also check the airport’s amenities and services on the airport website. Logan’s website,, has some very good information to consider when traveling. If you are assisting a person traveling, but aren’t traveling yourself, remember that only ticketed passengers are allowed past the security checkpoints. If the ticketed passenger needs additional assistance between security and his or her assigned gate, contact the airport or airline ahead of time to see if you can obtain a special pass to move beyond security as a non-ticketed person.

Air travel has changed from the exciting and glamorous event that it was in 1970. But, it doesn’t have to be a horrible experience. With a little forethought and preparation, you will get to your destination with as little hassle as possible.

Tracy Arabian is the communications officer at SeniorCare Inc., a local agency on aging that serves Gloucester, Beverly, Essex, Hamilton, Ipswich, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Rockport, Topsfield and Wenham.

Tracy Arabian is the communications officer at SeniorCare Inc., a local agency on aging that serves Gloucester, Beverly, Essex, Hamilton, Ipswich, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Rockport, Topsfield and Wenham.

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