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Refusing Wheelchairs on Small Airplanes?

Oakland...
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Refusing Wheelchairs on Small Airplanes?

I posted this on the Traveling with Disabilities forum and someone suggested I post it here as well:

Hi, I'm working for an organization that is trying to organize long haul flights from France to Cambodia for people with disabilities. We booked the flight through Etihad Airways CDG -> AUH -> BKK -> REP. There are two passengers, both wheelchair-bound, but able to assist themselves in an emergency and flying with a person without a disability. The problem we've come across is our BKK -> REP flight, which is operated by Bangkok Airways. We have spoken with Etihad and they said everything is fine for the flights up to BKK, but we must confirm with Bangkok Airways for the last flight. After contacting Bangkok Airways several times and getting the run-around, jumping through hoops like providing dimensions and photos of the wheelchairs, they are telling us that because the flight is on a turbo props aircraft, they have a 2-wheelchair limit on their flights (fine) and that they cannot accept the wheelchairs because they are beyond the acceptable dimensions of 50cm x 100cm x 50cm. Both wheelchairs are manual, but one folds and the other does not.

Is this normal? It seems ridiculous to me that an airline would refuse a personal wheelchair and seems like discrimination. Of course the passengers need a comfortable personal wheelchair when they arrive in Cambodia; if they do not have their own wheelchair they will be subject to sores and further injury. Are only skinny people with disabilities are able to fly?

For information: The non-foldable wheelchair is 63cm wide, 80cm high, and 88cm long, weighing 12kg. The foldable wheelchair is 38cm wide (I don't have the other dimension information with me while writing this post) and weighs 15kg.

Would appreciate any advice and information on this! It has been a nightmare dealing with the airline and they're supposed to fly in just four days!

34 replies to this topic
Salisbury, United...
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1. Re: Refusing Wheelchairs on Small Airplanes?

Just guessing but maybe the chair will not fit through the cargo door or it can't be manoeuvred in the hold. As you acknowledge its a small plane and so may not be able to accommodate the size. I don't think it's discrimination.

Chicago
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2. Re: Refusing Wheelchairs on Small Airplanes?

I would think that as it is a turbo prop plane space is very, very limited. There is only so much room to put stuff on the plane so larger items like wheelchairs are limited just like other luggage is on small planes. I wouldn't think it is discriminatory.

Can you look in to getting another folding wheel chair?

B

Wales, United...
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3. Re: Refusing Wheelchairs on Small Airplanes?

I don't think it's discrimination either, but I don't have a lot of knowledge of the law in Thailand. It looks like a matter of practicality to me.

Amsterdam, The...
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4. Re: Refusing Wheelchairs on Small Airplanes?

Wow what a drama! I feel for you and those two travellers in the group, esp the one with the larger wheelchair. I assume you are on the Etihad flight arriving BKK at 6PM and PG909 the last flight of the day at 7:15PM? If not, what flights are you on? Several of PG flights are on A320 and A319 and not the AT76 turboprop. Etihad seems to have a much later overnight flight from AUH which would connect to PG flights on the larger jet aircraft during the day. Less appealing, by a lot, would be a transfer to DMK and an Airasia flight on A320s but if you arrive indeed at 6PM you won't make their last flight at 8PM. Not possible for the one with the larger chair to make use of a similar folding chair? Another idea again not without major hassle would be to overnight near BKK and take a suitable PG flight the next day. Very sad situation esp discovering it so close to the travel date. I wish there was a magic bullet idea and I hope someone will come up with something. Good luck!

Dublin, Ireland
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5. Re: Refusing Wheelchairs on Small Airplanes?

sadly you are bound to have a problem on smaller aircraft, due to the fact that they are SMALL. i dont think that it is discrimination telling you that they cannot take the two chairs, especially the non-folding one. as others say, you should source a second folding unit.

bangkok airways are not trying to make things difficult for you and in fact have been trying to help you by getting measurements etc. if they say it wont fit, then it wont fit! they cannot do anything for you, so you shouldnt be too critical of them.

were etihad told before booking that there were these wheelchairs? if so, they should have ensured that there was an ability to carry these for the full flight

Los Angeles...
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6. Re: Refusing Wheelchairs on Small Airplanes?

You'd better make other arrangements. It's not a matter of making the representative on the phone say yes. What if you get there and the wheelchair simply does not fit through the cargo door? Then you are stuck.

Oakland...
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7. Re: Refusing Wheelchairs on Small Airplanes?

Thanks. I wonder what people who use power wheelchairs, which are generally larger than manual ones, are supposed to do in these cases? If they get all the way to BKK and are refused on board because of their wheelchair, will they just have to go home?

And no, getting a folding wheelchair is not an option, customized ones like this passenger needs run around $1000 apiece.

Amsterdam, The...
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8. Re: Refusing Wheelchairs on Small Airplanes?

Then your only other real option is to make arrangements for another flight on a different piece of equipment with an overnight stay near BKK. Or to see if Etihad will put that passenger and a companion on the later flight connecting to one of PG's other flights. So sorry.

And regarding, "If they get all the way to BKK and are refused on board because of their wheelchair, will they just have to go home?", I know you are very frustrated perhaps even distraught at the moment, but in such cases where (very) special travel needs are in play it is really necessary to suss out everything well in advance before making arrangements. Not a rebuke of your planning as you figured there would be no issues. Again, good luck and I hope you get something sorted.

Los Angeles...
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9. Re: Refusing Wheelchairs on Small Airplanes?

Genni, what actually happens is that people make sure to fly on bigger planes (possible if long distance) and go by ground (may be necessary if short distance ie small planes). You should get back to Etihad as another poster has suggested, and ask them to re-route you.

Edinburgh, United...
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10. Re: Refusing Wheelchairs on Small Airplanes?

"I wonder what people who use power wheelchairs, which are generally larger than manual ones, are supposed to do in these cases?"

Surely people with such requirements will make sure in advance that their wheelchairs can be carried on board?

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