A colleague has a family member who struggles with the stairs, and wouldn't be able to climb (injury). They've spotted a trip to Tasmania on Jetstar from Sydney, but are wondering if the planes have stairs or an air-bridge/jet-bridge.

The flights are JQ747 and JQ748, but I'd prefer a more generic way of finding out this information?

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    If you contact the airline in advance and advise them of the situation, they may be able to secure a special lift if the aircraft is to be boarded by stairs. This is especially common in the US, where there are comparatively strong legal protections for people with disabilities, but it's worth inquiring anywhere. – Zach Lipton Nov 30 '16 at 3:18
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    Yep I didn't see your comment before I posted, as they were near simultaneous I guess. – Zach Lipton Nov 30 '16 at 3:20
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    This is something you should advise the airline of as soon as possible, ideally right after booking the flight, so that they can make the necessary arrangements. – Michael Hampton Nov 30 '16 at 3:24
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    Not sure but I would look at the airport first. Plenty simply don't have jet-bridges. – Itai Nov 30 '16 at 4:43
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    Related (but opposite) question: travel.stackexchange.com/q/10326/4171 – Ari Brodsky Nov 30 '16 at 10:03

Flights JQ747/JQ748 are to/from Launceston Airport, which does not have aerobridges:

Facilities at Launceston airport do not include aerobridges to board or disembark aircraft. All access onto the aircraft is via aircraft stairs or mechanical lifting equipment (Personal Assistance Device) operated by the airlines.

I would strongly advise you to contact the airline and notify them that you will likely need assistance, and arrive early for check in so you can ensure they're ready.

On the Sydney side, Jetstar flights typically do use aerobridges, but these are some bus-only gates as well. The airline will be able to advise you regarding this as well.

As for a generic way to find out, I suppose you could always look at the airport in the satellite view on Google Maps, but even if the airport has gates does not guarantee that your flight will use them. So, again, contacting the airline is by far your best bet.

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    It sounds like the best solution here would be for your colleague or their family member to contact the airline in advance and make sure that they will be able to accommodate them. Even if they have lifting equipment, they may still require advance notice so they can make sure one will be available and have it in the appropriate place. – Doktor J Nov 30 '16 at 20:07
  • Even if the airport had bridges (such as Heathrow) there is no guarantee it will be used. – code ninja Dec 1 '16 at 4:43
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    This problem falls under disability and it is usually the airport that facilitates with this NOT the airline. So you need to contact the airport on both sides probably and request "wheel chair access". They use lifts and other routes to get you on board. But you need to genuinely provide disability papers. – ppumkin Dec 1 '16 at 10:13
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    I have never heard of being asked for papers RE disabilities. Whenever we have travelled with my grandmother, we have just asked (in advance). For many airlines (and I believe all of the ones in the EU) there are options available during ticket purchase and/or online check in to indicate that assistance will be required. The options aren't always that visible though. – ssmart Dec 1 '16 at 13:37

There is no way to guarantee either. Aircraft parking assignments are planned in advance, but subject to change without prior notice due to various reasons, such as the previous flight using the gate being delayed.

You can decrease the risk of a bus gate (stairs) by choosing flights that come and go during the daytime, early evening, as they do their best to park turn around flights at the gate for more efficient loading and unloading. Flights that arrive late or depart very early may use aircraft that park overnight, which would be more likely to use a bus gate to keep jet bridges open for turn arounds.

But if the flight uses a bus gate or stairs, then all airlines and airports have means to board passengers with mobility issues, ranging from simply carrying a specially designed wheelchair up the stairs, to using a lift truck to move the passenger and wheelchair up to one of the service doors.

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    In my experience, many such passengers prefer not to be carried if possible, or at least would like to know what the arrangements are in advance. Asking is the best way to find out though; many airlines have a special number or department to address disability requests. – Zach Lipton Nov 30 '16 at 3:38
  • well said on the last. I've seen it done on rare occasions. – jwenting Nov 30 '16 at 7:59
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    FWIW, "bus gates" and "stairs" are two orthogonal issues. I've seen bridges with stairs and bus gates without… – deceze Nov 30 '16 at 15:27
  • Well, there is one way to get at least pretty close to being sure whether you'll use a boarding bridge: book a flight on an airline that either always or never uses them at the airports on your itinerary. Of course, there's still the outside possibility of a diversion to another airport or some irregular operations issue causing that to change, but it's about as good as you can do. – reirab Nov 30 '16 at 19:28
  • @reirab: Even then, you can be surprised. JAL went through a period a few years ago when their evening flight from Narita to Bangkok parked away from the terminal building and used stairs on arrival. I actually found myself enjoying it, even though stairs give me some difficulty: you don't really appreciate how BIG a 747 or 777 is until you're standing ON THE GROUND next to one, and realizing you're looking something easily three to four stories tall (and that's NOT including the vertical tail!). – John R. Strohm Nov 30 '16 at 20:20

It is not the flight/plane themselves that could be the problem, but the airport.

If your friend's family member needs extra help to board the plane, then they should ask the airport/airline directly for assistance. (As soon as possible)

For example, I assume they will go to Launceston airport in Tasmania.

They have a "disability plan" that supports different disability (wheelchairs and other )

http://www.launcestonairport.com.au/disability-plan/

There is a PDF document, see pages 14 and 15.

I assume Sydney Airport has the same kind of assistance.

Either jet-bridges if boarding from the airport, or ramps (or elevators) if boarding from the tarmac.

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    Yeah, the airline (Jetstar) provides this service free, but they're wondering how to find out in advance if a particular flight will need one (obviously it depends on the airport) – Mark Mayo Nov 30 '16 at 3:26

As far as I am aware there is no generic way to discover this information. See the discussion at Ryanair Using Jetbridges, Where? about this topic where a Ryanair crewmember was unsure whether they use it at BUD or not as it was not his/her route and also someone pointed out sometimes it's just "depends" and that easyJet some places uses both.

Trying to address your need rather than answer your question directly:

  • Visit the airport's website.
  • Figure out the best telephone number to call regarding service for passengers with disabilities/special needs (it might just be some single center service number of course).
  • Call and tell them about your friend's physical trouble, and ask them how can it be arranged for him not to be inconvenienced/suffer any pain.
  • Suggest options such as: Ensuring an air-bridge; offering to take him out via an elevator down to the tarmac, then using a mobile lifter to the airplane's entrance; or whatever arrangement they suggest that I might not have though of (ramps? being carried on a chair?).

I'd say that's the best you can do in your situation.

If the airport is small it may not have bridges and thus you know it will be stairs. Otherwise you can't know as it can be situational: "They don't have a gate for us, we are going to use stairs." It's happened to me twice at major (admittedly foreign) airports.

And since I wrote this I've had to use stairs twice at major US airports. Seattle has some "gates" that are always actually stairs.

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