Stats on different airlines here.
What I do for my large power chair:
- Pull the control panel around to the inside of the chair arm and tape it securely to the arm with packing tape. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. The guys who repair chairs the airlines break say this is the thing that breaks the most. It has never broken on mine (I always do this). On some chairs you can remove it and take it with you, in which case do.
- Take off the headrest and take it into the plane with you. I bring a separate bag for this.
- Pull the footrests fully up and tape them that way.
- Write instructions and pleas to the handlers (preferably with photos) and attach them to the chair with packing tape. Be sure to include how to turn the battery on and off and how to move it (suggest using joystick but give non-power instructions). Also to tell them to make sure the wheels are not locked before they try to move it. I took pictures of parts of my chair and pointed to the relevant things with red arrows.
- Leave speed setting on low.
- Use glue (suggest e6000) to secure the rubber joystick cover to the metal joystick if it is at all loose.
- Pray to any gods you have or cross all the things or whatever it is you do.
I have all of this ready to go so I don’t hold up the plane much doing it as I board.
Things that can go wrong:
-They somehow lock the joystick and can’t move it Check your manual for the unlock sequence and post it with the notes on the chair.
-The crew putting it on the plane locks the wheels and the crew taking it off the plane doesn’t know how to unlock the wheels. Put in your note instructions for unlocking wheels before moving it.
-They then try to push it/drive it with the wheels locked and damage it. Put a note that wheels must be unlocked for moving.
-One crew turns it off, the other crew doesn’t know how to turn it on. Put instructions for how to turn it on and off in your notes.
-They drop it.
-They press the leg rest button extension button with their hand while they are driving it until the leg rest falls off. Put a “be careful to not press any buttons while using joystick!” note in your notes.
-They leave it in a weird place in the airport (hopefully not the other side of security for you). Best to wait at the gate and make sure to have it brought to you there.
The instructions I post on my Perimobile M300
Include a phone number so the ground crew can call you if they are having trouble moving your chair back to you. This would have saved me hours of waiting if I had thought of it sooner.
What I plan to do for my new Falcon Foldable chair
- I will remove the controller, headrest, footrest and cushion and bring them into the plane in a bag with me.
- I will secure the chair shut with velcro straps.
- I will make sure to have the manual mode on so the batteries are disconnected for flight and the chair is easily movable.
You can buy a special case for it, but I think the hassle of having to get the chair at baggage claim instead of at the gate is not worth it and I’d rather gate check it without the case. I doubt if I gate check it with the case I will get it back at the gate.
If the airline breaks it they have to fix it and furnish you with a replacement in the meantime. Make sure they do. You need to file the complaint with the airline BEFORE you leave the airport or they are no longer responsible.
You should also file a complaint with the apartment of Transportation here
I fly with United and they have broken my chair twice in about 25-30 flights. Once more severely (I think they dropped it from a height) and once in a minor way. Both times they fixed it quickly and without issues and offered a loaner chair once I made the complaint. The chance of breaking it is a real thing, but being able to travel is worth it.