will air crew dissemble PWC to stow in cargo hold?

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Kristina1

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Hi guys! Im flying soon with my Permobil M3. I'm worried that it could get damaged when airline crew stow in cargo hold. Will they try to dissemble it in order to stow?
 

Gorby

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I don't have any personal experience but I once saw a gentleman disassemble his son's wheelchair at the gate and place it in several carrying cases so that it could be stowed with luggage. He did this after his son was taken on board the plane. Took him about 20 minutes to do the disassembly. Are you planning to take your chair to the gate?
 

lgelb

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There is a lot of good advice on the net about TSA screening/ flying with PWCs, including disconnecting the power to the battery, removing joysticks, cushions and footplates in advance (these can stay with you in the cabin), and attaching instructions for any further disassembly as well as a plea to handlers for caution. I haven't done it, but I know people whose PWCs have been damaged.

I'm assuming this is a destination not accessible via train. Realistically, there are risks. I'm sure people whose chairs have survived will chime in here with tips.
 

swalker

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I have no personal experience, but have researched it a bit because I would like to fly again.

I met someone that had their Permobil C500 destroyed by an airline (I believe it was United). The airline replaced it with a new Permobil F5. It took some time for that to happen, and this person was in a loaner chair (from the airline) until the F5 was delivered. I think her trip was long over by then. It was an interesting way for her to get a new wheelchair!

Another thing to consider is that not all wheelchairs will fit into all airplanes. For most power wheelchairs, the back must be removed for the wheelchair to fit into the cargo hold of smaller aircraft (such as a Boeing 737). My Permobil C500 Corpus 3G has an easily removed back. My Permobil C500s VS does not have a back that can be readily removed (I think the shop rate is about 2 hours for that job). That wheelchair could only fit in the cargo holds of large aircraft (Boeing 777, for example).

So, you need to figure out what kind of airplane you will be flying and determine if your wheelchair needs to have parts removed to fit in the cargo hold.

The research I have done indicates that damage can occur, but that there are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of the wheelchair being damaged. Even with those steps, I would only consider flying with my backup wheelchair.

Here are steps I have read about or have been told by others who fly.

1. Remove the joystick, seat cushions, and anything that can become detached from the wheelchair (headrests, leg supports, thoracic supports, backpack, etc). All of that should go with you in the cabin as carry-on luggage or be checked separately.

2. Put the wheelchair in its most compact position. Most likely, remove the seat back or fold the seat back down onto the seat

3. Wrap the upper part of the wheelchair in plastic (like is used to secure items on a pallet).

4. Disconnect the batteries. On my Permobils, that is easily done by moving a switch which throws the circuit breaker.

5. Put the wheelchair in freewheel mode.

6. Take pictures

You want to make it hard to impossible for the airline baggage folks to set things in your seat. You want evidence that there was no damage to your wheelchair before you turn it over to the airline. If the plastic wrapping is damaged where the wheelchair is damaged, it is easier to make a claim against the airline for that damage.

I have talked to quite a few folks that have travelled with their wheelchairs and read many stories of others who have travelled. I would not hesitate to travel in the US with my backup wheelchair. I hope to do so this year.

Steve
 

Kristina1

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But I will be in the wheelchair all the way to the gate and down the tunnel to where you board the aircraft. How would we remove those things there on the spot? How would there be time? I have also done reading about this online and seemed many people fly with their pwc without problems.
 

swalker

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You will be able to ride your wheelchair to the plane's door. There you will board an aisle chair (if you are not able to walk down the aisle) which they will use to get you onto the airplane and into your seat.

You (or probably someone travelling with you) will need to remove the parts from the wheelchair and turn it over to the airline before you go into the plane.

You will board early and there should be ample time to have all this done if you plan ahead. I recommend practicing before the trip.

You will be the first on the plane and the last off the plane.

I don't know for certain, but believe that the airline will not help pulling parts off your wheelchair and preparing it for the cargo hold.

Steve
 

Clamdigger

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I have first hand knowledge, but it's 20 years old so probably not relevant anymore.

We were not allowed to assist in disassembly back then, but most of us still did.

I used to carry the PWC's down the stairs by myself and stow them, now I struggle to lift a fork. lol
 
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