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Flying with your rollator for the first time can be a little daunting, especially if you don’t know what the rules and normal procedures are. Simple questions like “can i take my rollator on a plane?” can lead you down a Google rabbit hole leaving you with more questions than when you started. Here’s what you need to know:
YES – you can take your rollator on a plane. Rollators are classified as an “Assistive Device” by the U.S. Department of Transportation. There are special rules and rights which allow any piece of equipment which assists you in coping with the effects of a disability. Continue reading for the finer details.
3 Ways To Fly With A Rollator
You basically have three options when flying with a rollator, and there are pros and cons to each strategy which we will go in to detail below. Depending on your situation and the specific rollator you are using, one transportation option may be more suitable than the others.
Option 1: Take your rollator onboard
If your rollator folds down small enough to fit within the carry-on baggage size limits then your first option is to simply take it on board in the cabin with you and store it in the overhead compartment.
If it’s too large to fit safely in the overhead storage, on most planes there are dedicated storage locations for wheelchairs and other assistive devices, and if there is not already a wheelchair allocated here, then staff may be able to store it here for you. Failing that, staff will store it in the cargo area for you. Make sure you let them know you’d like to retrieve it from the gate and not from baggage claim.
This is a good option if you need the help of your rollator all the way to the plane. However most rollators will be too large to fit safely in the cabin, and unless otherwise arranged with the airline, on many flights staff will ask you to gate-check your rollator.
Option 2: Gate-check your rollator
My personal favourite option in most situations is to gate-check your rollator just before you board. This allows you to use your rollator throughout the airport (even use the seat to carry any other carry-on items you have) and then check it just before you board.
Once you arrive at your gate let them know you have a gate-check item. They will usually allow you to board first along with parents with strollers and others who need a little more time boarding. You should be given a gate-check tag for your walker to identify you as the correct owner.
Staff will take your rollator and store it in the hold for the duration of the flight, then have it waiting for you when you get off the plane. It’s usually a good idea to remind them you would like it waiting for you when you get off the plane at both your final destination and at any connecting flights, because sometimes staff may assume you’re ok to pick it up from baggage claim which is usually a long walk away.
Option 3: Check your rollator with your luggage
Your final option is to check your rollator along with your other luggage when you first arrive at the airport. Then you can either walk unassisted through the airport, use one of the airport wheelchairs, or ask if there is an assistive shuttle transport (usually a little golf cart looking thing) available to your gate.
While this option does have it’s convenience, there are a couple of potential downsides you should be aware of.
- First, there is the potential that your rollator could miss any connecting flights you may have, or simply go missing as luggage sometimes does.
- Second, the chance of damage to your rollator is much greater when it is stored along with other luggage because it is much more likely to have other heavy items stored on top of it. (However when your assistive device is gate-checked it will be one of the last things to be stored and therefore much less likely to have anything on top of it.)
- Third, you will need to arrange a mobility device at each in-between stage of your journey, between connecting flights, and from the plane to baggage claim etc. These are usually provided on a first-come, first-served basis and there is often no guarantee one will be available.
If you do check your rollator you will want to carry it in a sturdy travel bag like this one, be sure to remove any parts that could potentially break, and maybe even add a few jumpers or cushions inside the bag to protect your equipment from damage.
Your First Time Flying With A Rollator
At least half of the nerves you feel about traveling with your rollator can be attributed to simply not knowing what to expect along there way. Here’s a quick overview.
Getting through security with your rollator
TSA are experienced with all kinds of assistive devices including rollators because they see hundreds of them every day, so getting through security is generally a breeze.
You’ll start by putting any carry-on items you have through the conveyor belt scanner as normal. The TSA officer will usually ask if you can manage without your rollator to go through the body scanner unassisted, and if so they will scan it with a wand while you walk through the body scanner along with the other passengers. This is usually a quick process but there should be seats available for you if it takes a little while. Don’t be afraid to ask if you need a seat to rest while you wait.
If you’re unable to manage without the rollator then they will take you over to the side and scan both you and your rollator with a hand scanner. They may also do a hands-on body check at this point, which can be a little uncomfortable, but will be done by someone of the same sex and should only take a moment.
Be sure to collect your other personal items from the conveyor belt before departing for your gate.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the questions we get asked most often. If your question isn’t answered here please leave a comment below and we will do our best to help you with your specific situation.
If I check my rollator do I have to pay a fee?
No, rollators are classified as assistive devices and airlines are not allowed to discriminate by charging extra to check these items. If you are carrying your rollator in a bag make sure you clearly label it as an assistive device and inform airline staff so they do not count it towards your bag limit.
Does my rollator count towards my baggage limit?
No, assistive devices do not count towards your baggage limit. However, if you have stored your rollator in a bag which also contains other personal items then the airline may count it towards your baggage limit, and therefore it may also be subject to baggage fees.
Does my walker count towards my carry on items?
No, assistive devices do not count towards your carry on items.
Do I have to notify the airline about my rollator?
Legally airlines are not allowed to require you to notify them you will be traveling with a rollator. However in order to ensure everything goes smoothly it’s usually a good idea to let them know in advance so they can make the proper arrangements for storage and any assistance you may need boarding the plane.
Can you board a plane with a cane?
Yes, a cane is considered an assistive device and you are allowed to bring it on board with you. But if you have a James Bond style knife or gun secretly located in the tip of your cane that might pose a problem.
Will TSA allow walking sticks?
Yes, walking sticks and canes are allowed by TSA, however they still have to be scanned like any other personal item.
Do airlines charge extra for wheelchairs?
No, wheelchairs fall under the same category of “assistive devices” that rollators do and airlines do not charge extra to check them.
What is the best rollator for travel?
- For ultimate portability, the Able Life Space Saver walker.
- For general airline travel, the Drive Nitro is a great choice because of it’s solid build that won’t get damaged during transport, large wheels that will handle all the different terrain you might face during your trip, and comfortable seat for when you need to take a break.
- For a 2-in-1 rollator and transport chair, the Rollz Motion is the best-in-class.
Airline Walker & Rollator Policies
Below are some handy links to specific policies for each of the major airlines as well as the Department of Transportation.
U.S. Department of Transportation