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In september I will go on my honeymoon: Schiphol(Netherlands) - Willemstad(Curacao). Due to my wife being chronically ill she is wheelchair or crutches dependant (depending how well she's doing that day). We would like to take her own crutches or wheelchair.

We have never flown when my wife knows upfront she's going to need either.

She would prefer to take both her crutches and wheelchair, but prefers her wheelchair above either. But what concerns us is what kind of hassle that might be.

  • I would have to push her (she cannot roll the wheelchair with her hands), but I cannot do that and take care of 2 large suitcases and 2 small ones.
  • Extra time to check in?
  • Extra time to check out? (missing our bus?)

What are things the airports accomodate in to make it easier for us to travel? What are things we could prepare?

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  • If this question is somehow too broad, please do tell and I will try to edit my question.
    – Kevin
    Jul 30 '15 at 6:54
  • Are you interested in things before you get to the airport, or only airport-plane-airport? (I think anything in the former might need splitting out if so, but airport-plane-airport looks OK to me for one question)
    – Gagravarr
    Jul 30 '15 at 9:45
  • @Gagravarr Airport-plane-airport is fine. My parents in law will drop us off at the airport (they don't go to the check-in with us) and we have a transfer setup which allows weelchairs to be taken on there.
    – Kevin
    Jul 30 '15 at 10:15
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Schiphol is well equipped for travel in a wheelchair. Most flights have level entrance and where there are stairs there are also lifts you can use. All the ones before boarding without needing to wait for staff.

When needed there are lifts for those planes where most people walk up stairs, (but I guess a flight to Willemstad will not use bus transport to the plane.)

But you should apply for assistance on the airport, Schiphol has a good system and this is a link to the page in Dutch. And here is a link to the page in English.

Almost every flight I have been on had people in wheelchairs or a wheelchair waiting at the gate for a passenger with walking restrictions. Even when your wife can get by with crutches, I would suggest (as others have done,) to take her normal wheelchair. Have it gate checked, so she will have the use of it in the airport and you will be sure to be in the plane.

On return you will be assisted as well, page in Dutch, page in English.

I have never been to the Antilles, but a quick search offered a page with more information.

Wheelchair services are offered through airlines upon request but can also be requested personally at the customer service desk, located in the airport office building, adjacent to the airport terminal.

Seeing that, you should contact your airline at the time of booking if possible, or as soon after as possible, as they are the ones to organize the help in Curaçao.
But if they tell you they are not the ones, send an e-mail to the airport and require assistance.

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Firstly traveling in a wheelchair is a lot better than with crutches, the crutches can be fixed to the back of the chair and then taken on the flight to use mid-flight if needed. There may be time where you need to stand for over 30 minutes with nowhere to sit in an airport.

You need to inform the airline ideally at time of booking the flight. However most airlines can cope with much shorter notice.

Here are some tips:

  • Check in with lots of time left.

  • Use the wheelchair as a reason to make use of the premium/fasttrack/upclass checkin – the person on duty there is much more likely to know what they are doing.

  • Inform the airline staff you wish to remain in the chair until you get to the airplane.

  • Decide what help you need getting on to the plane (remember that often you can’t use a lift in an airport without an escort.)

  • Ask them where you should go and at what time, don’t assume they will use the same gate to board you as everyone else.

  • Get bandage tags to put on the chair, foot plates and crutches.

  • Try not to check in the chair, they can put in on the plane at the time you get on.

  • Likewise for the crutches, take them the flight yourself.

  • Take any wheelchair cushion on the flight with you, or it will get lost.

  • Fix the footplates in a way that make them hard to remove (a bent paperclip often works).

  • Take a pump with you, as they may let down your wheels, likewise a repair kit.

  • Fold the chair yourself, as there staff are likely to damage it while trying.

  • At the other end, consider refusing to leave you seat until you can see your chair at the door.

  • One or two people are allowed to remain with the person it the wheelchair and board with them.

  • Get a small bag that will fit to the back of the wheelchair, or use a small rucksack, so your hands are free to push your wife.

  • Try to use a wheelchair that has arm rests that will take all your cases, that why you don’t need to push trolley as well as the chair. (However your wife may not like it if she can’t see over the top of the cases.)

Normally it all goes to plan with no problems.

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As you are apparently using carry on luggage, you might find it easier to check your wheelchair to the final destination and then use the airport wheelchair service at each airport along the route. That way an airport staffer pushes your wife while you handle the bags (some airport wheelchairs have a small bag shelf under the seat).

Most airport wheel chair services will take your wife right to the plane door and will be waiting at the door at your next airport. They will push her all the way through security, customs, immigration, baggage claim and any where else she needs to go (even airline lounges).

Once you claim your bags / wheelchair you can then use your own chair or stick with the airport service until you board the shuttle bus or taxi to your hotel.

You can also take the crutches with you, so she can use them to board and move around the plane. She may have to hold them while being pushed around in the wheelchair.

If you want to use the airport service, you are best to book it in advance through the airline, though as Ian Ringrose mentioned, airlines will try to accommodate last minute requests.

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  • 1
    checking in a wheelchair is a BIG risk, copying with a lost set of cloths is a lot easier then trying to get hold of a replacement wheelchair. Also more people touch a check-in char therefore more chance of it getting damaged. Jul 30 '15 at 13:59
  • 1
    airport wheel chair services work in the same way using your own chair. Jul 30 '15 at 14:01
  • Actually if you have ever watched treatment of checked in items such as wheelchairs, bicycles, etc you will see they actually get better treatment and ramp rats respect what they are. They are taken by hand from check in to the baggage sort area and are usually placed on top of baggage in the airplane hold or container. Wheelchairs checked plane-side receive essentially the same amount of handling / risk. But obviously you have a different opinion.
    – user13044
    Jul 30 '15 at 14:52

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