Accessible Air Travel: Getting to the Airport

Editor’s Note: This is the second part in a series on accessible air travel. Part I, which deals with booking your flight, is available here.

Second only to security and lost luggage, one of the biggest pains associated with air travel is how to get there – especially if you have a disability. But don’t let transport there prevent you from taking off. Here are a few of your options and my personal tips.

  • Public transportation. Public transportation gets a bad rap sometimes, but if it’s available in your area, it is a great option for going to and from the airport. If you’re in the City of Brotherly Love, you have a couple public transportation options: SEPTA’s Regional Rail Airport Line or accessible bus services on routes 37, 108 and 115.If you take the Regional Rail, the train stops at most terminals and offers elevator services at each. The bus also stops at most terminals. But a word of warning – if you are bringing a ton of luggage with you, remember you won’t have a ton of help. The SEPTA employees will certainly help you and your luggage get on and off the transport, but you’ll be on your own from there.
  • Parking. If you’re going to drive in yourself, you have many different parking options depending on your airport. The garages at the airport all have accessible spots located close to the doors – but don’t rely on those. In my experience, those spots fill up extremely quickly. I have found it very hard to find a spot there unless I arrive first thing in the morning. But there are other parking options. At the Philadelphia International Airport, the Economy lot (which is the least expensive airport parking option) has plenty of accessible parking spots and offers bus transportation right to your terminal. The buses have lifts, so it’s a great option for wheelchair users.Another consideration for parking is the size of your vehicle. If you’re driving an over-sized wheelchair-accessible van, it may be too tall for some of the parking garages at the airport. The height limit for most garages is 6 feet. Be sure to call ahead to find out!
  • Shuttle & valet services. These options can be a bit more expensive, but the convenience factor for someone with a disability is pretty great. There are many wheelchair accessible taxis and other door-to-door accessible shuttle services that will help you with your luggage and get your from your home to the airport without any worries.
    Valet station at Philadelphia International Airport

    Valet station at Philadelphia International Airport

    If you want to drive to the airport, but don’t want to mess with parking, valets can be a great option – they are definitely my personal choice. They make it very easy for anyone with a disability as you do not even have to get out of your car. Here’s how it works. I drive to their lot near the airport (you are sure to find PLENTY near any major airport), and pull out my cell phone and politely tell them I am out front and am disabled. Someone quickly comes out to greet me, I give them the details of my trip,  a driver comes out to the car and we are off to the airport. I stay in the driver’s seat the whole time, which makes it very easy. Once we arrive at the terminal, I pull in to a spot, and the drivers always ask how they can help. I usually take care of getting my wheelchair out, but ask for their help with my luggage. It’s quick and easy, and my car is safe.

So there you have it. While finding transportation to the airport can be challenging when you have a disability, you have plenty of options. Now that we’re at the airport, the real fun can begin. Be sure to tune in to tomorrow’s post to learn all about checking in!

For more advice on accessible transportation, check out these tips and demos from former Magee patient Frankie LaMacchia. He’ll show you how to navigate taxis, trains, buses and everything in between.


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