4 Steps to Take When Older Relatives Fly Solo

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Flying has become more complicated, and too often we hear stories of people who become confused or lost when navigating the airport. Here are four steps to take to ensure your older or disabled loved ones have a safe, comfortable flight.

  1. Booking the Flight
  • A direct flight is always the best choice. Layovers can be stressful and complicated with finding the gate and handling flight delays or even cancelled flights.
  • When choosing seats, consider the length of the flight and how many times they—or their seatmates—will need to use the restroom. A bulkhead seat with lots of legroom may be easier to get in and out of, but remember the limited access to carry-ons.
  • Arrange for wheelchair assistance to the gate, onto the airplane, at layover airports and at the destination. The attendant is invaluable, pushing the chair, helping with luggage, facilitating the Security process and finding the gate.
  • Contact the airport to find out if the flight will be boarded via a jet way or if it will be necessary to climb stairs to get on the flight.
  1. Planning for the Trip
  • Arrange transportation to and from the airport and ensure someone will stay with loved ones until they are on the plane.
  • Will they be able to navigate the tiny plane restrooms? They may need incontinence supplies for the trip (even if they don’t usually use them).
  • Pack in luggage that will be easy to manage, including carry-ons.
  1. En Route:
  • Ask for an escort “gate pass” at the ticket counter so you can accompany older loved ones to the gate. You’ll need proper ID and be prepared to go through Security too.
  • Inform TSA agents about any joint replacements, pacemakers, artificial limbs, medications stored with freezer packs and syringes or other medical equipment that may require a personal scan or pat down. Call the TSA Cares hotline 1-855-787-2227 for more information.
  • Help loved ones use restrooms just before they get on the plane.
  • When you accompany them to the gate, ask the agents what kind of help flight attendants can provide while in the air.
  • Ask if you can help them board the plane and get settled.
  • Make sure they have snacks, books, movies, earphones, jackets, blankets etc. they will need during the flight.
  • Adjust the airflow so it’s not too cold or hot—they may not be able to reach it to adjust.
  1. At the Destination:
  • Arrange for wheelchair assistance to take them to baggage claim, but remember, that attendant doesn’t know your loved ones or have a photo to identify them. I strongly urge you to also have someone who knows them waiting at the destination gate—not just at baggage claim. Get a gate pass and allow plenty of time, as it may be a bit more difficult without having your loved ones with you.
  • Plan for some down time upon arrival—your loved ones may experience fatigue at a different level than you do after a flight.

Amy Goyer is the author of Juggling Life, Work and Caregiving and AARP’s Family & Caregiving Expert. Connect with Amy on  TwitterFacebookLinkedIn.












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