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Airline Travel with a Disabled Child - 2021 Review

Airline travel with any child can be hard work – those of us who are parents can certainly attest to that. However, airline travel with a disabled child, or a child with special needs, presents its own set of unique challenges.

From time to time at AARDY we get the opportunity to share with our customers the thoughts of others within the travel community. Ollie Birk, based in the UK, is an up-and-coming travel writer and we are delighted to share some of his advice. @OllieBirk

Ollie’s advice:

Airline Travel with a Disabled Child - [WINGS FOR ALL]

Wings For All is a well-respected program for any child with special needs or disability, where the act of boarding a plane is rehearsed with professional pilots and flight attendants. This program is designed to give the children experience in boarding a plane to help reassure them during the real event. This should help many parents who can't usually take their child on a plane. The program is currently based in the US. However, Manchester Airport in the UK currently leads the way for this type of program.

Aisle Seat

If you have a disabled child who requires a wheelchair, it is best to sit them in an aisle seat for ease of access. This will allow them to access the toilet and get on and off the plane more easily.

Shoulder Straps

If your child has a hard time sitting upright, ask your airline beforehand if they provide shoulder straps. They are not required by law, so it is possible they don't have them. In this case, you can purchase your own.

Aisle Wheelchair

If your child requires a wheelchair, you can only bring your own up until the gate. From there on, the airline will provide an aisle chair. However, some airlines only have these on request, so be sure to call the airline beforehand.


A child with autism, for example, isn't immediately obvious. Be sure to let the airline know several times in several different ways to ensure the message is delivered, as messages can be lost. Airlines want all passengers to have an enjoyable flight, so it is in everyone's best interest.

At AARDY we have talked about this in the past. Quite simply, the airline and airport genuinely want to help passengers with special needs. They will move heaven and earth to help you, if only they know in advance how they can help.

Special assistance – American Airlines Customers with Disabilities | United Airlines Travel Needs : Delta Air Lines

As always, safe travels.

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