Airport Tips For Travelers With Arthritis
Whether travelers are flying to escape cold weather or to be home for the holidays, negotiating airports can be a special challenge for people with arthritis. We’ve got tips to help get you through the airport with ease.
Songs have been written about the pleasures of home during the holiday season—and about celebrating the holidays with a tropical escape from snow and cold. Either option can mean a plane ticket and a crowded airport. Filing through luggage check-ins, airport security clearance, and boarding gates isn’t fun for anyone, but travelers with arthritis face special challenges. Painful joints can make getting from the airport entrance to an assigned seat on a flight, with luggage in tow, a dreaded gauntlet. If you have arthritis, we have some tips to take some of the pain and stress out of your airport experience.
- Travel like a minimalist. Pare down your belongs to those you really need, and carry them in a small bag or fanny pack. Pulling or carrying heavy luggage through the airport will make your trip to your gate harder than it has to be.
- Ask for assistance. If walking is difficult for you, talk with your carrier about airport transportation when you book your flight. Airlines are legally required to provide wheelchairs or electric carts to passengers who request assistance with transportation. Riding from the airport curb to your gate will make your trip more comfortable and less stressful.
- Talk with security checkpoint officers before you are screened. If arthritis may make it difficult for you to remove your shoes or otherwise comply with the screening process, inform a Transportation Security Officer before you are screened. If you have a doctor’s note or TSA notification card, share that information. This won’t exempt you from screening, but it may help you to discreetly manage your condition with security assistance.
- Understand your security screening options. When a security patdown could cause pain to sensitive joints, the advanced imaging technology (ATI) offered by airport body scanners may be a better option. However, ATI screening does require people to walk without assistance and raise their hands above their heads. If your mobility is limited, a patdown may be your only option.
- Declare your carry-on medications. You know the security rules for carry-on liquids: each passenger is allowed bottled liquid that doesn’t exceed 3.4 ounces. Allowed liquids must fit in one 1-quart sized clear, plastic zip bag, and placed in the security bin for inspection. There is an exception for medications. They are allowed in reasonable quantities that exceed 3.4 ounces, and don’t have to be placed in the zip bag. It is a good idea to declare these items for inspection. Be prepared: officers may open medicine bottles to inspect them.
- Consider pre-boarding. Airlines must offer pre-boarding to disabled passengers, but they are not required to announce this option. If you would like to pre-board, talk with the gate agent and stay close by the gate so that you aren’t forgotten in the bustle of boarding.
- Use the TSA Cares help line. A toll-free help line was developed for travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. The line provides information about screening policies. If you think you might need checkpoint support, call the help line three days in advance to arrange assistance with a TSA Customer Service Manager.
With savvy packing and a little advance planning, getting to your flight and your destination will be less stressful and less painful. That is something to celebrate.
Ask the Expert: Arthritis Video Series
Meet the Expert: Doctor Bio Video Series
Dr. Hansen explains why arthritis fellowship training is linked to better patient care and better outcomes.