Travel assistance for seniors

2014-04-19-Airportwheelchair.jpgDear Savvy Senior,
I would like to fly my elderly parents across the country next month for my daughter's wedding but have some concerns about the flight. My mom has trouble walking long distances and my dad has COPD and needs an oxygen tank. What airport or airline services are available to help old passengers?

-Concerned Daughter

Dear Concerned,
Flying can be physically exhausting for anyone, but for seniors with health issues or physical limitations it can be extremely challenging. Here are a few tips that can help.

Booking the Flight
When you go to book your parent's flight, this is the time to make special requests that can help make the trip easier for them. You'll need to make these requests over the phone.

For example, you may want to inquire about seats in the front of the plane for easier access or bulkhead seats that provides extra leg room, and you should probably request a wheelchair or two with attendant(s) to maneuver your parents through the airports they will be departing from and arriving to, and if there's a connecting flight in between.

If your parents don't want a wheelchair, but want some help, ask about electric carts.

You also need to check with the airline regarding their policy for portable oxygen concentrators for your dad. Some airlines require specific medical forms that will need to be signed by his doctor.

Airport Assistance
If your parents are flying on their own, you should know that airlines allow elderly fliers to be escorted to and from the gate by a non-traveling companion, as long as the escort provides his or her full name, birth date and government-issued ID.

If no one is available to help your parents, find out how the airline can assist them. Delta Airlines, for example, can have an employee help your parents through check-in with 48 hours notice, and American Airlines provides special assistance to passengers with disabilities.

Or, consider hiring an independent company like Royal Airport Concierge Services, who will meet your parents at the curb to help them check their bags and escort them to security. They typically charge $150 to $250 and serve dozens of airports across the U.S.

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