Those who rely upon an electric mobility scooter may feel some misgivings about traveling by air. With the improvement of access to air travel, barriers need not add to the traveler's worry.
When planning a trip, the extra time needed must be taken into account. Closely timing connecting flights is never a good idea. Also, it is important to know the type of plane being used, so as to know, for example, that an onboard wheelchair is available for lavatory access.
The first barrier seen, with or without a mobility scooter, is the TSA. The key to getting through security is communication. The security officer should be asked for assistance. Policies are in place to help travelers who need additional assistance, such as private areas for pat-down inspections. The TSA page does state that inspections of wheelchairs and scooters will be done while the traveler remains seated if he indicates he cannot get up, so it is likely that security will be no more difficult to those using electric scooters than for those who do not.
The U.S. Department of Transportation dictates that airlines will transport mobility scooters when the size of the plane allows. If the scooter can be disassembled and stowed on board, it will not count against carry-on luggage.
It is more likely, though, that an electric scooter will be stowed in the cargo hold. Depending upon the size of the aircraft, it will be driven in, or rolled if there is a clutch that can disengage the wheels from the motor; or the scooter will be disassembled. According to the Department of Transportation's air travel guidelines, "Mobility aids shall be returned to the owner as close as possible to the door of the aircraft...or at the baggage claim area, in accordance with whatever request was made by the passenger before boarding." Additionally, if the carrier had to disassemble it to get it into the plane, the carrier is responsible for reassembling the scooter.
Talking to the carrier to make sure that the scooter can be ridden up to the gate and gate checked is important. Boarding and exiting the plane can be accomplished using a regular wheelchair provided by the airline for this purpose, and assistance will be provided by the air carrier personnel. They will also help with reaching connecting flights. In either case, each piece that may be disassembled should be labeled with the passenger's name and contact information.
Knowing whether the scooter uses a wet or dry battery is important. Wet batteries use a fluid, like car batteries. All of the batteries we carry on this website are dry glass mat or spill-proof gel-filled types. The airline will ask, because a wet battery must be treated as hazardous.
Other steps to take include securing the throttle in the lowest position with a piece of tape; removing any cushions, baskets or other accessories that could come loose and be lost in transit; and securing the key or control pin to the scooter with a steel fishing leader, easily obtained at a sporting goods store.
Barriers continue to fall for those who depend upon electric scooters for their mobility. With research, communication and perhaps some willpower to encourage compliance with standards and rules, air travel with a mobility scooter should not be a daunting option.