Preparing your trip
- Make sure you have all the information you need before you finalize your plans.
- Be realistic about your needs, in particular if you are unable to walk long stretches without help. The distances between checkpoints and gates can be long.
- Identify the airline or tour operator best able to meet your needs.
- Contact them to make sure they know and understand your needs, that they are able to meet them.
- Don’t expect help to be available "on demand". The best approach is to request assistance before booking.
- Don’t rely on the staff to know the best way to help you – if they don’t know, be ready to tell them what you need!
Article 12 Regulation (EC) No 1107/2006
Compensation for lost or damaged wheelchairs, other mobility equipment and assistive devices
Where wheelchairs or other mobility equipment or assistive devices are lost or damaged whilst being handled at the airport or transported on board aircraft, the passenger to whom the equipment belongs shall be compensated, in accordance with rules of international, Community and national law.
You should have access to all types of tickets, such as economy and business class, but they may not all offer you the desired level of service. For example, the legroom in economy may not be adequate for your needs. You are strongly advised to book 7 days in advance, at any event 48 hours before departure, to ensure that the assistance you need is available.
Aviation requirements limit the number of PRM that can travel on any one flight; those requirements relate to the type of aircraft and the level of service required by the passenger. By booking early, you can be sure of a seat. Of course, should you have to cancel your trip, please do so as soon as possible so that your seat can be given to another PRM. It is also wise to confirm the arrangements ahead of time, to check that the assistance you need has been reserved with your booking.
Airlines employ a worldwide system of codes to identify assistance needs. In order to define the assistance you need, agents will have to ask you certain questions. These questions may seem indiscreet, but they have to be asked if the assistance you require is to be provided. Examples:
- In what way are you handicapped?
- Can you walk from the terminal to the aircraft or do you need a wheelchair / aisle chair?
- If you need a wheelchair, will you use your own?
- Is the wheelchair:
- motorized? (1)
- Do you need someone to push your wheelchair?
- Can you go up / down the steps to the plane or do you need assistance to board / disembark?
- Can you move out of the wheelchair without help?
- Can you walk in the plane or do you need a wheelchair cabin seat?
- Do you know whether the airline can provide lavatories that are accessible to wheelchair cabin seats?
- What assistance do you need during the flight? The airline cannot help you eat, get up, communicate, take medication or go to the lavatories. If you need help of this kind, you must be accompanied.
- What type of seat suits you best?
- Will you be taking medical equipment with you?
- Are you asthmatic or do you have breathing difficulties?
- If you are in serious medical condition, you must contact the airline, which may require a certificate attesting that you are fit to fly. You may also be asked to produce such a certificate at the airport.
(1) You must provide this information, whether the airline asks for it or not. It needs to know what kind of battery runs the wheelchair and whether it is safe for travel. You may be asked to remove the wheelchair’s control unit and place it in your carry-on bag to make sure it is not lost or damaged.
At the airport
A reception area is located near desk 45 (Departure level).
Lift request terminals reserved for PRM allow the mobility-impaired to be assisted from outside the terminal right to the plane, or the other way round. They are located in parking lots P1 and P20 and at the Swiss Railways bus stop (Gare CFF) of the Geneva public transport system (TPG).
In order to guarantee the best quality service and reduce your waiting time, you must indicate your needs to your airline or travel agent when booking your flight, at least 48 hours before departure.
In the plane
Boarding and disembarking
Your manually-operated, foldable wheelchair will be stowed either in the cabin or in the luggage hold (the most likely). This probably also holds true for all motorized wheelchairs. In either case, airports and airlines should authorize you to remain in your wheelchair up to the door of the plane. They should also return the wheelchair to you at the same spot on arrival. In the case of motorized wheelchairs, if, for security reasons, the wheelchair must be stowed in a special manner in the hold, or at airports where wheelchairs have to be carried up or down stairs to the door and where this could pose a risk to staff, the airline may not authorize you to remain in your own wheelchair.
Make sure that you have the medication you need in your hand luggage, in sufficient quantity for the flight and any delays. If you need a wheelchair cabin seat, it should have been reserved when you booked.
If you have a sensory impairment, the airline staff must make themselves known to you and offer the appropriate level of assistance during the flight. For example, they should explain emergency procedures and can help unwrap the items on your meal tray.
If you have respiratory difficulties and need oxygen throughout the flight, the airline will provide you with on-board oxygen. Some companies will bill you for this service. You cannot take your own oxygen on board. If you need oxygen only in an emergency, there is no need to order a supply.
If the airline has met all your needs - as specified when you booked – then you will have travelled as comfortably as the other passengers. But if something went wrong it is best to inform the appropriate authorities promptly. Complaints should initially be sent to the Customer Service of the airline and/or to the airport management. If you are not satisfied with the response, you can consider contacting the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA).