In line with the Air Carrier Access Act, the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) maintains that all airlines should be equipped and ready to offer special aid to senior travelers.
Despite the assurances, the actual level of assistance provided to elderly passengers will vary in practice. It depends on the chosen airline, as well as general availability. Go through the following to know what kind of air travel assistance seniors can expect from an airline.
Assistance with Boarding and Deboarding the Plane
There must be flight assistance for elderly passengers to help them safely enplane and deplane. Seniors may not always need or accept assistance; nonetheless, it should always be offered by the staff.
Airline attendants must be present and especially attentive toward senior passengers during both the onboarding and deboarding processes. If needed, and when applicable, attendants should also help senior passengers connect with their next flight.
Aisle Chair Service
An aisle chair is a portable wheelchair used to both enplane and deplane disabled, infirm, or otherwise physically debilitated passengers. They are also used inside the plane to help debilitated passengers move to and from their seats, as needed.
The smaller wheelchairs are available to all passengers who need them, irrespective of their age. However, older seniors can also ask for the aisle chair service to get on and off a plane safely, even if they are not completely immobile.
Freedom to Choose Preferred Seats
Some seniors prefer window seats while others would rather sit close to the washroom for easier, faster access. If available, an airline may allow elderly passengers to choose better seats, but it isn’t an obligation on their part.
If you or the senior traveling with you has a seating preference, always ask whether that preference can be provided for. Depending on availability, special seating requests for/from the elderly are more likely to be accommodated than not.
It’s not the airline that is responsible for checking and screening passengers before they come on board. Therefore, if you or the senior traveling with you needs expedited screening, communicate that fact to a TSA officer at the airport, or the air marshal.
They will let you know if expedited screening for the concerned senior is an option. Note that a faster and more relaxed approach to the screening process is generally reserved for 75+ year old passengers only, and it’s up to the officials to decide whether they are going to follow through with the request.
However, if the senior has a medically justifiable reason to demand faster screening, it’s a lot more likely to be accepted. In such situations, airport security will expedite the senior’s personal screening process to let them through quickly.
They will still check all medical equipment that they must, but the senior will not need to stand around for it. Even if a faster screening request cannot be accepted, rest assured that all aged passengers are allowed to sit comfortably through most of the checking process. If they are unable to stand at all, they will be checked accordingly, without jeopardizing their well-being.
This just about sums up what you can expect in terms of senior flight assistance at airlines that are under TSA control. An important fact to keep in mind is that despite best efforts, there will always be limits to what airline attendants and even the TSA might be able to help seniors.
It is better to ensure that a trained nurse, or at least a family member accompanies seniors who might need constant assistance during the flight. Flying alone with a vulnerable medical condition is ill-advised for the elderly.