Is my mother fit to fly long haul?

Johan is immigrating to Australia from South Africa and as much as he would like to bring his disabled mother with him, he’s unsure if she would cope with the flight.

Q. Johan
My mother is 81 years old and wheelchair-bound as her left leg was amputated some years ago. We are immigrating to Australia from South Africa and want to take her with us. How will she handle a 10-hour flight and how will she manage to get to the toilets, etc? There will be a person flying with her, but is it possible for her to get on and off the toilets as I know there’s not much space?

A. All airlines will offer assistance through airports, and for getting on and off flights, if booked in advance. Many airlines will allow for a carer to travel with your mother, however, they will be solely responsible for her wellbeing, i.e. making sure she gets to the toilet, is comfortable during the flight, etc. Also, she will not be allowed to take her own mobility aid on board, the airline will often provide a cabin suitable aid, but again, you will need to request this in advance.

Depending on the size of aircraft, there may be disabled toilets on board, though she may have to cope with standard aircraft sized toilets and this can be a squeeze. It is possible to fit two people in the cubicle, but this will depend on the size of each person.

With regards to how your mother will cope with the long flight really depends on how well she is physically, notwithstanding her disability. Long haul flights are tough on even the most able bodied and active passenger, so perhaps a discussion with her physician is required before you consider making the trip. If her physician gives the go ahead, ensure she has a program of exercises to keep her circulation moving that she can carry out at regular intervals.

Before booking anything, you really need to contact the airline and explain your mother’s situation, as you best know her abilities and the airline will be able to advise you accordingly. Some airlines, of which SAA is one, require you to complete a medical questionnaire prior to travel so they can assess how best to cater for a passenger’s medical needs.

Also, ensure that anything agreed to is confirmed in writing or by email, and confirm upon checking in that the necessary arrangements have been made.

We hope that she is fit enough to make the journey and you can all get on with enjoying your new life in Australia.

Written by Debbie McTaggart