Walking with crutches to improve your mobility when recovering from a leg, ankle or foot injury can be inconvenient in confined spaces, but you don't need to worry about taking your crutches on an airplane.
If you need the mobility devices to get around and are preparing for an upcoming flight, you won't need to consider making alternative travel arrangements. Major airlines have concessions for dealing with crutches, which will allow you to travel with relative ease and provide you with special assistance for getting through airport security and navigating the boarding experience.
Read the Website
Visit your airline's website to read about its carry-on baggage regulations or call the airline's toll-free number. Explain that you're traveling on an upcoming flight and are using crutches. Confirm that the airline can accept you and your crutches on the flight. Most airlines outline their carry-on regulations on their website.
United Airways (united.com), for example, considers crutches as an additional personal item, meaning they don't count as your carry-on bag or personal item such as purse. Southwest Airlines (southwest.com) and American Airlines (aa.com) have the same policy. If you have trouble locating this information, look in their FAQs section.
Give Yourself Time
Get to the airport as early as possible to give yourself extra time to get to your gate. If you have trouble walking with your crutches, seek out an airport employee and ask for a wheelchair. Don’t be afraid to ask for this help, as it will help you and assist in helping the TSA line go faster, which benefits everyone.
Ask for Assistance
If you feel like your crutches will be a hindrance to you or other members of your party, you may want to request wheelchair service to navigate through the airport. If you are traveling alone, one of the special services provided by airports is that mobility aids will be able to push you through the airport if needed, and help you reach your gate.
Prepare for Boarding
Board the airline as usual and find your seat. Navigating the plane's aisle with crutches can be challenging, but other passengers should step out of your way as a courtesy. Once seated, ask the flight attendant if she can store the crutches for you. You should be sure not to sit in the emergency exit rows, as your injury would mean you are physically incapable of performing some of the necessary functions.
Many airlines have closets designed to hold travelers' oversized items, such as crutches and canes. Ask the flight attendant to retrieve your crutches once the plane lands.
Ask your airline if you can board the plane before other passengers to avoid slowing down those behind you. The gate agent may be able to assist with this. The best option may be to pay for priority boarding ahead of time, giving you plenty of time to secure that early boarding and take away an element of stress at check-in.
When the plane arrives at its destination, wait until the other passengers have disembarked before doing so yourself. Hopefully the flight attendants will remember you need assistance and help you during that period of time. If possible, use collapsible crutches for your trip, as they take up less space on the plane.