I use a power wheelchair and I’d like to fly from San Francisco to Dallas to visit my sister. I have never flown before so I need a lot of help in the planning department. Can you recommend a good travel agent, who will be able to make sure my flight is accessible, and walk me through what will happen once I get to the airport?
Although travel agents may be a good option for planning a specialized accessible itinerary, I don’t generally recommend working with one for air travel alone. It all boils down to economics. Most travel agents don’t get any commissions for domestic flights, and very little for international flights, so they are not inclined to put much effort into the process. And unfortunately there are too many travel agents out there who do not understand the intricacies of accessible air travel, and they may unfortunately pass on incorrect information, which in turn could lead to a less than accessible experience for you.
My advice is to go straight to the source – in this case the Department of Transportation – for information on the inner workings of accessible air travel. They are the experts, and you will find accurate information on their website. I recommend familiarizing yourself with the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), as it will give you a good idea about your rights and responsibilities under the law. And once you understand those, then you will have a good idea of what will happen at the airport and on board the airplane. The DOT has a copy of the ACAA at www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/disability.
And once you are familiar with the law, you can book your flight yourself. I know it may seem overwhelming at first, but education and self-advocacy really is the best way to plan an accessible flight.