Like many other disabled travelers, when I travel by air I worry about entrusting my trusty power chair to the baggage handlers and like many there have been times when my chair has been returned in less than perfect condition. So I was excited to hear of a potentially revolutionary innovation from Air4All and Delta Flight Products that will mean those of us in power chairs and wheelchairs will be able to fly and remain in our own chairs.
Delta Flight Products is a wholly owned subsidiary of Delta Airlines. Air4All their partners are a consortium of Priestman Goode, Flying Disabled, SWS Certification and Sunrise Medical Products. They have been working on this project since 2019 and have won several awards for the design. The first full prototype has been launched at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg in June 2023.
When a passenger in a wheelchair or powerchair arrives on board the seat is prepared by tipping up the seat. The seat is then ready for use. The passenger then positions themselves with the backrest of their chair against the seat backrest. The passenger is then secured into place.
Once the passenger is secured in place and comfortable they will be able enjoy all the same comforts as other passengers. They will have access to an Inflight entertainment system, cocktail table and headrest.
In my opinion this is a real game changer for any disabled traveler who uses a powerchair or wheelchair. It would mean that anyone who has a specially designed chair moulded to their needs could travel in comfort and reduce the discomfort of transferring to a seat and reduce the risk of injury.
Another benefit for disabled travelers, is because You remain in your own chair, the risk of damage to the chair is minimized and there is no waiting for the chair to be unloaded from the hold meaning that if there is an airbridge deployed the waiting time to disembark could be drastically reduce. The system is waiting approval from the CAA, let us hope they give the approval speedily and we see air travel becoming more accessible to more disabled travelers.