QUESTION ON TRANSPORTING PERSONAL ECV WHEN FLYING

Discussion in 'disABILITIES!' started by loribell, Jul 18, 2018.

  1. loribell

    loribell DIS Veteran

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    My mother has got to the point that she can no longer walk the parks due to problems with her feet. She has had surgery on both but they have since got worse. Because of this we bought an ECV for her to use. It quickly paid for itself in just a couple of trips. We have driven each time since we bought it so we haven't had any issues previously. We just booked a trip for she and I and are flying. Can we bring the ECV with us to put on the plane? If we can bring it on the plane will Disney transport it with our luggage? Help please!

    Thanks for any help you can give!
     
  2. kaytieeldr

    kaytieeldr Post hoc, ergo propter hoc

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    Yes.
    Yes, but she would be better off riding it to the gate and having it gate-checked
    Contact the airline well in advance for information, policies, prepping the ecv...
     
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  4. loribell

    loribell DIS Veteran

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    Thank you so much. I was wondering if it was something that could be gate checked.
     
  5. mamabunny

    mamabunny DIS Veteran

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    Here's what I expect to experience when I fly with my ECV:

    - between a week and 10 days prior to flying, I contact the airline to let them know I will be traveling with my own device. Some airlines don't care; others will have a special department reach out to you to discuss your needs prior to the flight. There may also be questions regarding the make/model of your ECV, and the capacity of the battery(s).

    - I arrive early for the flight. I personally prefer to be at the Airport about 2-½ to 3 hours early. This is to allow for the bit of extra "work" you will do with the personal mobility device.

    - I ALWAYS PACK MY BATTERY CHARGER IN MY CARRY-ON. NEVER STORE *ANYTHING* ON THE ECV WHEN FLYING (For safety purposes, as well as preventing loss or damage to anything). Remove any/all accessories that could be knocked off, broken, etc. (Like cupholders)

    - When I check my luggage with the airline, I let them know that I will be gate-checking my device, and that I DO NOT need an aisle chair. (skip this step if you are going all carry-on)

    - Next is TSA. Here, it is fastest if you can stand and walk through the machine, and then allow them to manually "clear" your device. Since my ECV has a battery bag + charger, that adds time to the process, as that must be x-rayed separately by the TSA (at least at our home airport and when departing MCO) Most TSA checkpoints will minimally have a wooden cane handy to help with balance if you need some extra help. You can ask to sit once you have cleared the scanner if needed. Remain calm and courteous and let TSA know this is your first time flying with the scooter, so you don't know exactly what to do.

    - TSA will typically do a thorough visual inspection of the device and may swab it as well. They may swab the battery separately.

    - Unless you are TSA "Pre-Check" be prepared to remove shoes, put your cell phone in a bin, etc. just like everyone else

    - Once through TSA, I go directly to my departure gate. As soon as an airline employee appears to work that flight, I let them know that I will be gate checking my ECV and that I do not need an aisle chair. (I also have to discuss removal/storage of the battery for my particular ECV model with them). Sometimes, they will put the gate-check tags on right then, other times they will do it just before you board the plane. Be alert to boarding times, and keep an eye on the Gate Agent, as you will typically board in the first group.

    - When it's time to board, you will typically be called in the first group. Carefully proceed down the Jetway ramp (don't try to make your first Disney ride a runaway ramp spectacular!) and when you get to the door of the plane, move to the side, and then hand the device off to a member of the ground crew (or a "host"). It will be either stored inside the plane, or much more likely will be stowed under the plane in a cargo hold reserved for gate-checked equipment.

    - Enjoy your flight!

    - Towards the end of your flight, ask a flight attendant to let you know when your device is ready after you land. Just like at WDW, you load first, but get off last, so be prepared to wait a bit. Typically the plane is 50% or greater "unloaded" by the time I get my ECV back outside the door of the plane.

    (If you have a connecting flight, be sure to add some extra time between flights to allow for the retrieval of your device at the connecting airport. I usually add at least 30 minutes, just for safety and sanity; depending on the connecting airport - I'm looking at you, DFW - I may add as much as an hour)

    - DME (Disney's Magical Express) will store the device under the coach if you can make the stairs - if not, then you can ride on the device after it is placed on the lift, which is a ramp/platform, and then transfer to a seat on the bus.

    The lift procedure for the DME bus is unlike any other transportation lift used at WDW - you back (backwards) on to the ramp platform, then ride up, reverse backwards into the bus, and this will then allow you to drive forward when coming back out of the bus at the Resort. YOU MUST BE ABLE TO DRIVE VERY ACCURATELY AND SLOWLY.

    Although there are spotty reports that people have been allowed to stand without a personal mobility device on the platform while it was lifted to the interior floor of the bus, I have never seen this, and have been regularly told by DME drivers that it is not allowed under any circumstance.

    Hope this is helpful! Have a Magical trip! :)
     
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  6. AngelaMouse1991

    AngelaMouse1991 I came and never left at heart!

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    This information is great! I had no idea that you could travel on a plane with a scooter. My parents will be here in 10 days for a 14 day family get together trip. I rented 2 of the bigger scooters from a local rental company. This is Mom and Dads first experience using a scooter at Disney or for that matter, using one at all. They really need scooters back home to, and the company we rented from also sells their used models once they get 6 months old. They still look like new and its big savings. I dismissed this option based on the fact we have no safe way to transport them back north. I wonder if there is a airline size limit? I know these are like 230 lbs each. Do airlines charge for this service? I wonder what the possibility of damage is? I think mobility scooters would really help them back home to if this was a possible option. Going to start my research. Thanks so much!
     
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  7. kaytieeldr

    kaytieeldr Post hoc, ergo propter hoc

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    Airlines do not charge to transport mobility devices on the passenger's flight.

    For specific information: Call. The. Airline.
     
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  8. cmwade77

    cmwade77 DIS Veteran

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    In the U.S., they cannot legally charge to transport mobility devices, but it should be noted that certain devices may have to have their batteries removed on certain airlines, so it is also important to call them and check with TSA ahead of time with your specific make, model, battery type, size and to know if it is removable or not.
     
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  9. mamabunny

    mamabunny DIS Veteran

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    @AngelaMouse1991 - some ECVs "come apart" into as many as *5* parts for travel in a passenger vehicle. Ideally, you will want the ECV to remain assembled for the flight; that lessens the chance of problems. At most airports, this is possible, but there are a couple of tricks to up the chance of the ECV being transported "whole".

    First of all, as @kaytieeldr said, Call the airline. Can't stress this enough. The airline will need to know the size (not just "large" but possibly - most likely - the actual dimensions and weight of the unit. The airline will also need to know about the battery - not just that it has one, but the chemistry type (for example, Lithium Ion is very popular with newer ECVs) and the airline may ask if the unit can be disassembled. THIS IS WHERE YOU JUST SAY NO - because if you say "Yes, but Mom and Dad will need help to reassemble it in the tiny confines of the Jetway", I promise you that 2 things will happen: #1 The ECV(s) will come up from under the plane in bits and pieces, and #2 no one will be able to, or know how to, help them reassemble the parts and pieces.

    SHOW UP EARLY FOR THE FLIGHT. Not just 30 minutes early at the gate - show up *at least* 90 minutes ahead of time, and check in at the ticket counter IN PERSON, just as if you have luggage to check, even if you are going all carry-on. This is the first (of many times) that you will tell airline employees that you will need to send your ECV down to the tarmac via a service elevator, and that it can't be taken apart. By getting there early, and checking in as soon as possible (I personally try to arrive at least 2 hours early on my first flight, so that I don't have to worry if TSA is slow) airport personnel know you will need that extra time.

    WAIT AT YOUR GATE. I know, it's fun to look around at the airport shops, and Starbucks is right there, and maybe we could just wander over here... NO. Wait at the gate. As soon as an airport airline employee shows up to work your flight, approach the gate desk and (as a show of courtesy) wait for them to acknowledge you. This is when you need to again stress that you will need to send the ECV down to be loaded intact - that it can't be disassembled because you can't reassemble it at your destination. At this point, they should give further instructions, and at some point, you should get a "gate check" tag, when they take the ECV down to the tarmac to load into the hold of the plane.

    Last but certainly not least - I know you want to save money, but make sure that your parents can lift - by themself separately - the heaviest part of any ECV they are considering. If the heaviest part weighs 50 pounds, and your Mom can only lift 25 pounds reliably, she will never be able to go anywhere by herself, if she has to take it apart and put it in the trunk or the back of her vehicle.

    There are ultra-light ECVs that weight (fully assembled) less than 40 pounds. I personally own one that (without me on it) weights 35 pounds with the battery installed. If I take off the seat, battery and storage, it's about 23 pounds for the frame by itself, and it all fits into a bag the size of a golf bag.

    Do *a lot* of research first. And make sure if you buy them ECVs that they are what your Mom and Dad *want* and *need* both. What looks good to an ambulatory person may be impractical for someone who requires a personal mobility device on a daily basis.

    And, as always, let us know if you have any more questions! :)
     
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  10. EpcotQueen

    EpcotQueen DIS Veteran

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    Mamabunny, you ALWAYS provide great information on this forum! Thank you! I think I finally have my husband convinced to buy an ECV. We both have more and more difficulty walking. Two big questions for you though. Do you keep the key when gate checking your ECV? I would think so but want to make sure. It's one of those items the airline could loose. And do you gate check the battery or carry it into the cabin?
    Thanks again for the great info!
     
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  11. kaytieeldr

    kaytieeldr Post hoc, ergo propter hoc

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    Keep the key, and if possible, have someone else in your party keep a key separately.

    The airline can/should/will tell you how to transport the battery. Another reason to call in advance.
     
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  12. mamabunny

    mamabunny DIS Veteran

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    :) Thanks @kaytieeldr! :) Girl, you had my back! :)

    @EpcotQueen Definitely, always call and work with your airline. I would always take the key - although don't worry if it ever does get lost, or you want to buy a spare, because places like MonsterScooterParts.com sell replacements/extras. The key is really more to help shut off the power completely and prevent minor mischief, although it is required to run the scooter. As you know from folks talking around here, there is a "brake" that can be released to allow the ECV to be free-rolled from the gate to the tarmac. (arrive early, and ask for your scooter to ride down to the tarmac via the freight or service elevator after you have ridden it to the aircraft door). Be sure to show the gate crew that takes the scooter how to set and release that brake. Some owners (like @RaySharpton) even put instructions or tags on their scooters to show gate/cargo crews how to set/release the brake, etc.

    Some types of batteries are required to be removed, and others aren't. It can actually depend on several factors, but the biggest two seem to be:

    - battery chemistry (Lithium-ion must be removed, along with some more rare forms of batteries. Most of the time "car style" (also sometimes referred to as SLA batteries) are left on the device and put in the hold.
    - the airline makes the final call, based on their interpretation of the FAA's rules and the information they have about your scooter model from the manufacturer.

    Personally, I like to carry my batteries into the cabin because I know exactly where they are stowed, and they remain at "room temperature" instead of being subjected to the intense temperature extremes that can be experienced when (for example) going from a 95 degree day at the departing airport to freezing/near freezing temps at cruising altitude, and then back to 90+ degrees again at the arrival airport. My batteries, however, are lithium-ion - and so will always be required to be removed and fly in the cabin.

    Probably the most important reason to call the airline prior to traveling is that the Accessibility Services (or whatever your airline's department is called) can note in the system that they have spoken to you, and the gate agents can see that you already know what to expect.
     
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  13. RaySharpton

    RaySharpton Retired and going to Disney.

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    I agree with mamabunny.

    When at WDW attractions, they usually have you take your keys with you because they can unlock the freewheel levers to roll the scooter around.

    At the airport, I just unlock my freewheel lever so the handlers can roll it when not lifting it, I lock the front wheel tiller so the front wheel won't turn, and I fold it down to the seat and lock it in place. And then I finally fold down the back seat just to make it easier for the handlers. But as mamabunny suggested to me earlier, I may ask them to transfer my scooter by elevator instead of the gateway stairs.

    I know that this won't prevent them from loading the scooter on its side on the conveyor ramp on under the plane storage.

    I leave my scooter's two batteries on my scooter. Delta approves this. I don't know about other airlines. But I have not had a problem with other airports, yet. They are very heavy for me to take both of them on board the plane. They are called "Gel" or "Dry" batteries as Delta in Atlanta likes to call them.

    I own a REVO three-wheel scooter.

    [​IMG]
    The batteries are located and screwed to the black covers under the seat. The battery covers look like part of the scooter. They can be unlocked and lifted with the handles on top. I bought this over a decade ago and this particular one is no longer made.

    [​IMG]
    The two batteries are 12Volt/32AH batteries which I always buy from SpinLife.com.



    I don't own a car, so I use a stretchy wrist key holder to put my scooter key on it. When at home, I put my door key and mailbox key on it too. It is easy to keep track of the stretchy band on the scooter keyhole or on my wrist. I am always afraid that I will lose my key when I might pull other things out of my pant pocket, and the key falling on the ground or carpet without me knowing it. This has happened when pulling out my phone before. I've lost other items from my pocket before like this. And for some reason, I don't hear it drop. Sometimes I have found it many yards away when walking with my cane. I guess that it might have been barely hanging out of my pant pocket. When dining, I don't mind putting it in my pocket. But I am always very careful not to lose it.

    [​IMG]

    I also tried something new to help protect my old scooter when the plane is stored and handled by the airlines. I buy some plastic wrap like saran wrap to wrap around my scooter's electronic section and secure it with saran wrap. I do the same thing with the seat.

    Just an idea.


    .
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2018
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  14. EpcotQueen

    EpcotQueen DIS Veteran

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    I called American Airlines to get info from them- Their special assistance line. They did nothing more than read to me what I found online. They were totally unhelpful. Keep saying we could store ECV in main cabin. No, not realistic. Now my husband won’t consider getting one. Grrrr
     
  15. mamabunny

    mamabunny DIS Veteran

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    Call back. Don't just stop here, and throw your hands up in the air - and tell your hubby to take a deep breath, and we will help you get the info you want/need for *both* of you to feel comfortable. :)

    Seriously. Call again. Get a different person. (American is a BIG airline; the chances of getting the same person are very small, even though that is not a large department. I *know* because I fly American, almost exclusively, because my husband works for a major AMERICAN airline... So any info you see from me on this board relates to when I fly on an AMERICAN airline. Can't say much more than that :)) Remember that (no I am not kidding...) American is *still* experiencing "growing pains" from when they merged with US Air back in 2015... :worried:

    Explain to them that you believe you were given some incorrect information when you called previously. Explain to them that you can't book your tickets to fly until you find out exactly what to expect (don't frame it as "I need to know because we are buying a mobility device" - instead tell them you are getting ready to purchase first class tickets, and you need to know how to bring your family members new ECV on the plane.) Let them know you understand it will have to be gate checked and put in the hold.

    But above all, remember this: THOUSANDS of people fly every day, all over the world, with their personal mobility devices. It is eminently do-able. The key to getting the answers you want and need is to ask the questions in a way that they know how to answer them.

    (And if you have any further questions that we can answer here, don't hesitate to ask!)
     
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  16. WantToGoNow

    WantToGoNow DIS Veteran

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    I have a personal scooter but I was thinking of renting from a vendor for our trip. i'm afraid it might get damaged on the plane. Has anyone ever had theirs damaged. If I rent I won't have it for the airport.
     
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  17. RaySharpton

    RaySharpton Retired and going to Disney.

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    Hi, WantToGoNow.

    Yes I have, but not to the extent that it was not driveable. I was usually so tired, that I didn't notice it until later.

    Once the plastic part on the metal cover came off of a locking mechanism that locks the front and rear part of my REVO three-wheel scooter. It was a cosmetic damage covering a piece of metal.

    I assume that they loaded/unloaded the scooter on its side and it got caught on something and it broke off.

    A second time it appears that they had to remove the seat with the metal pole from the scooter. But instead of just removing the seat the recommended way, they took out the heavy metal bolt used for height adjustment and replaced the bolt without inserting it all of the way in. Over time the bolt must have bent and I didn't notice for a long time until I wanted to remove the seat to put it in a car truck. The bolt was bent just far enough so that it wouldn't go all the through the metal pole. It hasn't fallen out, but I would have liked it to go be in the original position as it is supposed to be.

    Third, there were scratches to the blue painted area here and there. Or a small tear on the seat.

    The scooter is over a decade old and it still works for traveling on airlines only.

    Several years ago, when I lost my car, I bought a more heavy duty four-wheel scooter to drive to work every day. It was too big to load on a plane because of its size and the space requirements on some of the Delta planes. I didn't want to take a chance that they would change my flight at the last moment to a plane with a smaller storage unit for my trip. I travel by myself and I didn't have any way to take it back home in time before the airline departure. I was probably overthinking this, but it is what it is.

    So what I do now is make sure my REVO scooter is in working order before I fly on the airlines. I make sure that the batteries are not too old. One time I had to buy batteries from Buena Vista Scooter and it was more expensive than buying them online myself.

    I was still pretty naive to the fact the reason my scooter wouldn't drive as long at the WDW parks was due to my scooter's battery capacity was diminished. And even though the scooter meter said that it was fully charged, the scooter did not last as long for the day at the parks. I was told that the battery would only charge the parts of the battery that could still hold a charge and not the whole battery and that is why it took far less time to fully charge. It was only able to charge the working part of the battery and not the whole battery.

    Second, I carry onboard with me anything on the scooter that might be damaged or lost, like the scooter charger, valuables in any attached bags on the scooter.

    Third, when I get to the airport I take photos of my scooter with the date and time imprinted on each photo In case it is damaged, I can immediately tell the airlines of the damage and fill out the forms required.

    That's about all I usually do now when traveling on the airlines with my older scooter.

    Make sure your scooter is in working order, carry on board with you anything that you think may be damaged or lost and finally, take before and after photos of you scooter so that you can immediately report to the appropriate airline damage department when you arrive at your arrival airport.

    That is true. You could request wheelchair assistance to the airline gate and to the gangway to the airline door. I don't know about getting to Disney Magical Express. Since I travel by myself, I always worried about this.

    And then when you get to Disney resort lobby, you could wait for your rented scooter.

    When your vacation is over, you can do the reverse.

    It would be a lot more comfortable if others were traveling with you so that they could help you along the way doing walking errands for you until you get your rented scooter. Like obtaining an airport wheelchair as you exit your car. The airlines can get you a wheelchair after you enter the airport and some airports may have them at dropoff points.

    I am sure a lot more experience folks here will be along to help answer your specific questions or give you their experiences.

    Enjoy your vacation.
     
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