A broken arm in a big plaster cast doesn’t mean you can’t take-off in a plane for your next trip! Limited mobility with a cast, crutches, slings or other medical devices complicates air travel with a broken bone. If you cannot reschedule your trip, knowing what to expect at the airport and on the airplane makes your trip more comfortable without delays. The extent of the injury, location of the broken bone and size of the cast affect possible limitations and in-flight accommodations necessary during the flight. Plan your travels early and work with the airline to have a comfortable duration of the flight and arrive safely and smoothly to your destination.
Call your doctor or healthcare professional to ensure air travel is safe, particularly if the bone fracture occurred recently, there’s increased risk, or it’s a long haul flight. Swelling is common immediately following a fractured bone and may worsen while sitting for extended periods. Blood clots are a concern for anyone on flights longer than four hours. A recently broken bone may increase your risk of blood clots. Getting up to move around during the flight, and moving your legs and ankles as much as possible helps reduce the risk. Ask for suggestions on traveling with minimal pain and difficulty.
Contact the airline to confirm you are able to fly with the type of cast you have. It also depends on the fracture site – if the broken bone requires you to recline the entire flight, you may need to purchase an extra seat or additional seats or set up other accommodations with the airline. If you require a wheelchair service, you need to contact the airline before check-in to set that up. Handle these issues before your departure date so your flying plans aren't interrupted.
Book a bulkhead seat or special seat if possible to give yourself more legroom, particularly if you're traveling with a broken leg. You won't have the option of sitting in an exit row or emergency exit since you won't be able to fulfill the duties of assisting passengers in case of an emergency. Consider the location of bathrooms and the airplane door to limit the amount of moving you need to do.
Pack any pain medications you were prescribed for the broken bone in the original container. Disclaimer: prepare to have the medication inspected at the security checkpoint, along with medication for any other medical conditions.
At The Airport
Arrive at the airport early to give yourself enough time to get through the ticket line and security. Arrange for someone to accompany you to the airport if you are flying alone. Ask the airline for assistance if necessary.
Talk to the security checkpoint agent about your needs to get through the metal detectors safely. Depending on the fracture site, you may have crutches or similar walking aids – those items need to go through the scanner. An agent can provide support while your crutches are inspected.
Move to the inspection area at the security checkpoint as directed by the security agent. You will likely have your cast physically inspected and possibly swabbed for explosives. The explosives test is simple and painless. A small white swab is brushed over the area and placed into a machine to test for traces of explosives. Request a private room for the inspection if you feel more comfortable out of the view of other passengers.
Board the plane early if possible to give yourself time to get settled. Ask for assistance from the flight attendants as necessary to secure your carry-on baggage and get seated comfortably.