My five year old grandson has severe Cerebral Palsy, and he cannot sit upright in anything other than his specialized wheelchair. I’m trying to figure out how I can fly with him. Can you offer me any suggestions?
This is a problem many parents and grandparents face, but unfortunately the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) limits what kind of seating devices can be brought aboard the aircraft. First off, you can’t take your grandson’s wheelchair aboard any commercial aircraft. By that I mean, you can take it as baggage, but your grandson cannot sit in it. He must transfer to an airline seat.
If he lacks enough trunk support, and cannot stay upright, it may be impossible for him to fly. Child car seats are just about the only thing that can be brought aboard, and those must be FAA approved. It sounds like your grandson is too big for those. Many parents use neck pillows, towels and blankets to help their children with support. Seating the child next to the window helps too, as he can lean on it. You have to be careful what you take aboard to help with his support though, because unless it’s FAA-approved, any homemade device that straps to the seat or is too big and bulky will usually get the boot.
The Cares Harness (www.kidsflysafe.com) may be an option for some children. This FAA-approved harness straps to the seat and can be used on children over one year old who weight between 22 and 44 pounds and are up to 40-inches tall.
Another option is buy a first-class seat and physically help maintain his balance during takeoff and landing. After that he can recline, and because of the extra room in first-class, the seat goes back further.
In the end, the airlines aren’t required to do anything special, so the burden is shifted to the passenger to make work-arounds (within the law). And unfortunately viable work-arounds are not available in every case.