Almost five years ago, I had the experience of traveling with my granddaughter and her parents on a plane for her birthday trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This experience gave me a new understanding of some issues of traveling as an amputee.
While the airport in Atlanta did a fantastic job handling the TSA pre-check, allowing her dad to pat down the leg and examine his hands for explosive powder residue, the airport in Orlando on our return visit was not so lovely.
Because she did not want to take off her leg, the TSA agents did not know how to handle it. They made a loud commotion, yelling for a supervisor across the crowded airport, announcing that they had an amputee child and didn't know what to do. She had to wait in her wheelchair for a long time while they found a supervisor to decide how to handle the situation. (she uses the wheelchair for long periods of standing) In the end, the supervisor allowed her dad to do the same as in Atlanta, but they did advise her parents that when she reached 13, she would have to go through TSA independently and advised them to contact TSA Cares for future flights.
This incident made me decide to see what the new regulations were, if any, for air travel with a prosthetic device. The following is what I have learned.
Traveling can be exciting and stimulating but also challenging for those with an artificial limb. Getting through security and boarding a plane can be intimidating, but with some research and preparation, everyone can still enjoy air travel, regardless of physical limitations. According to the Amputee Coalition, approximately 2 million people in the United States live with an artificial limb, which is expected to double by 2050. Given the increasing number of travelers with prosthetics, airlines have begun implementing new policies to ensure that the safety of air travelers is protected while preserving the dignity of those with prosthetics.
One of the major concerns for air travelers with prosthetics is airport security screening. The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has implemented new procedures to address these issues. Artificial limbs are allowed to go through screening with the passenger, and passengers should inform the security agents if they need help to walk through the metal detector or stand unaided with their prosthetics.
The TSA also recommends that passengers arrive earlier than usual to allow additional screening time. Passengers are not required to remove their prosthetic devices during security screening. Still, it is essential to note that passengers may be asked to remove all footwear, including any prosthetic socks or covers. It is, however, important to inform the security agent that the prosthetics are a part of the body, and passengers should be offered a private screening area if needed.
Passengers with prosthetic devices or mobility aids may receive priority boarding, aisle seats, or special assistance with transits.
Another concern is the packaging and stowing of prosthetic devices during flights, should the passenger decide not to wear them. Airlines allow prosthetics to be brought on board in place of carry-on baggage. While prosthetic legs can generally fit in the overhead compartments, keeping them underneath the seat in front of you may be more convenient. For longer flights, the airline should be informed ahead of time so that someone may provide additional space or equipment.
Airlines are trained to handle passengers with physical disabilities and can offer various services to ensure that your prosthetic device is safe and comfortable throughout the journey. It is, however, essential to inquire with the airline ahead of time to know the available options.
Knowing the aircraft's seating layout for passengers with prosthetic limbs is essential when booking a ticket. For instance, smaller regional jets may have less space for bags or mobility aids or smaller lavatories that could pose difficulty for those with artificial limbs.
Furthermore, airlines are designed to assist you when traveling with a child with an artificial limb. Although the considerations are similar for adults, some airports provide strollers, bassinets, or wheelchairs for families with children. Airlines may also offer additional services, such as priority boarding or seats that allow you to travel as a family. Parents of children with prosthetics should also book a seat next to the child, preferably in bulkhead seating, to allow enough space for the prosthetic device. Additionally, it's important to notify the airline of any special requirements ahead of time so that they can appropriately prepare for your family's travel.
Air travel for travelers with prosthetics and children can be a smooth and comfortable experience with some research and preparation. It is essential to communicate with the airline and plan accordingly to ensure your journey is comfortable and stress-free. Most importantly, seize the opportunity to embrace a new adventure and see the world without barriers.
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Most of the content is written by people at JMorris Travel. Every once in a while we will have a guest blogger, usually it is part of our 'family'.Always with a nod to Family Travel!