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Choosing the Most Suitable Onboard Wheelchair for Your Aircraft and Your Passengers: Key Considerations

March 14, 2024

There are several considerations for airlines to make when selecting an onboard wheelchair to improve accessible travel aboard their aircraft, from ensuring passenger safety to ease of use for cabin crew and meeting all the relevant local regulations. Decision-makers should regularly review their systems for servicing passengers with reduced mobility and upgrade or implement onboard wheelchair provisions to meet the expected standards of passengers, crew and regulatory bodies. By considering these fundamentals, airlines can provide a safe and dignified travel experience for all passengers with an onboard wheelchair solution that meets their operational goals.

Meeting the Standards for Safety

Safety standards and regulations for onboard wheelchairs vary globally, depending on where you are flying to and from and the size of your aircraft. Decision-makers must be informed about the regulations that apply to their fleet and select an onboard wheelchair that helps them stay compliant. Working closely with a trusted onboard wheelchair provider is the best way to ensure your chosen solution will meet your needs in this regard.

For more insight into essential onboard wheelchair guidelines for airlines worldwide, read our article here. 

Passenger Comfort & Dignity

An onboard wheelchair should offer a safe, reliable and discreet experience to passengers with reduced mobility. A positive and compassionate experience for the passenger makes flying easier and more enjoyable and strengthens their relationship with the airline.

A retractable backrest allows the passenger’s caregiver or cabin crew to assist with transferring the passenger from the wheelchair to the aircraft seat more easily. This feature enables them to be closer to the passenger without reaching over the back of the wheelchair. Passengers with reduced mobility appreciate the ability to transfer to their aircraft seat effortlessly, move around inside the plane, and use the lavatories without inconvenience or embarrassment.

Cabin Crew Experience

A well-designed onboard wheelchair can give cabin crew the confidence to support passengers and make their role easier. Assisting passengers with reduced mobility can be difficult and if the correct equipment is available, this job is more manageable and considerably less stressful. An onboard wheelchair that is lightweight and easy to stow can be easily managed by cabin crew during take-off and landing. A swivel castor design makes it easier to manoeuvre in tight spaces, while push-on and push-off brakes are easy for the operator to apply or release.

flying with a wheelchair - rules for airlines

Weight & Carrying Capacity

A lightweight airplane wheelchair not only makes it easier for cabin crew to handle but also helps reduce the aircraft’s overall weight. On a B737, one ton of weight results in a fuel penalty of approximately 100 kilograms. Therefore, for every 10 kilograms saved, one kilogram of fuel can be saved per flight.

However, choosing a lightweight onboard wheelchair should not negatively impact the passenger experience by sacrificing carrying capacity. A well-engineered chair should be able to carry up to 40 times its own weight and support a passenger weight of up to 250kg or 550lb.

Materials & Maintenance

Maintaining high levels of hygiene for all equipment onboard aircraft is a top priority now more than ever. This includes onboard wheelchairs, which should be disinfected regularly and thoroughly cleaned between uses by different passengers.

A high-quality chair should be made of materials that enable a high level of hygiene, with anti-microbial properties that suppress mould and bacteria growth, and be easy to clean manually. When selecting your onboard wheelchair, it is essential to choose a solution that is easy to clean and designed with durable material that will not stain or scratch with repeated cleaning, thereby optimising its through-life costs.

Have you considered the Airchair?

The Airchair is lightweight and easy to stow and manoeuvre within the confines of an aircraft. Its design enables a high carrying capacity and provides a positive experience for passengers and cabin crew. It complies with international regulations, including EU 1107/2006, UK DPTAC, US DoT 14, and CFR 382. Made with durable materials and with the paintwork finished with Sterilcoat-AM®, it helps to ensure the highest hygiene standard.

If you are interested in learning more about how the Airchair can help your airline, contact us here.