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my gf and I will be traveling through South America for the last 3 weeks of April. She is able-bodied and I am c5 quadriplegic that can walk with crutches for short distances/durations (like down the aisle of an airplane). We've traveled extensively in USA, with a bit of Europe and the Caribbean as well. However I believe this will be quite different because for all of that past travel, we've always flown one of the major airlines here (American Airlines, Delta, United, Southwest, etc) and on these airlines the policy is pretty much the same across the board:

  • I'm able to remain in my wheelchair and check it right at the gate

  • I'm allowed to bring a carry-on bag containing medical supplies in addition to whatever the standard cary-on allowance for that specific airline and class of ticket

  • I'm allowed to carry on yet another bag containing my Freewheel (and its parts), which is essentially a 3rd wheel that attaches to my wheelchair allowing me to navigate some rougher terrain

...all this for no additional charge.

I'm starting to get concerned as we look at flights between countries within South America (ex Ecuador to Argentina) and also flights with the same countries. What I've been seeing is some pretty high costs for standard carry-on as well as checked baggage and not much more information on what I'm allowed to bring (paid for or not) medical supplies/equipment-wise.

Does anyone know if there is a standard policy in place of any sort with respect to this in South America?

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    Have you tried contacting the airlines you're planning on flying to ask them about their policies? It's possible they may not have a policy on these issues and have to make it up on the fly (as it were).
    – FreeMan
    Commented Mar 6, 2023 at 19:26
  • @FreeMan that's kind of what I've been doing, but the few that I've. booked are not terribly easy to communicate with... if you can even get a hold of anyone.
    – Daveh0
    Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 15:28

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In general the major airlines in South America are run more-or-less to the same standards (both good and bad) as major airlines in North America or Europe. So, depending on what airline you are considering, for example, you can check the special assistance policies of LATAM, Avianca, or Gol, or use a search engine to find the policies of other airlines. You will probably find them comparable to US airlines but should of course read them carefully to make sure your needs will be met. You should also check what kind of notification they require in advance and ensure that you provide that notice. If the written information is not sufficient to clarify if your needs will be met, you should call the airline well in advance of your flight so you do not encounter any surprises on the day of your travel.

You might also consider connecting with disability rights advocacy organizations in the country or countries you are considering visiting. These organizations will be able to provide you with more information about both the legal rights in those countries (which will vary from country to country) as well as any practical information you may need. This applies especially once you get off the plane, as it can unfortunately be the case that not all of South America is accessible as you may be used to in the US with the ADA.

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