If you're travelling with a carer, they may be eligible for a 'Companion Card' discount from the airline. Different airlines have different policies. Do your research first on the airline's website. Speak to airline staff well in advance to be sure they can meet your needs. Call to confirm plans on the day before your flight. Allow plenty of time for checking in, boarding and meeting connecting flights. If you have a stopover, consider what your needs will be – you may not have access to your mobility aid. Know your needs Flying with a disability takes some forward planning. You should explain your needs to airline staff when you book your flight. Will you: be travelling alone or with a carer? need help navigating the airport? need help with baggage and boarding? be able to use the toilet on the plane? be able to understand safety briefings and instructions from staff? (Some airlines have braille or large-print books available). Plane accessibility Not all planes board via an aerobridge. If you can't manage steps, let the airline know in advance as you may need to use a lift. Some international budget airlines, such as Tiger, charge a fee. If you're unable to walk to your seat, you can ask for an aisle chair – a collapsible wheelchair narrow enough to travel along the aisle. Most planes have some seats with adjustable arm rests, so you can move from the chair into your seat. "People with disabilities are first on, last off," "Airlines usually like me seated on the aisle seat but this can be a problem if other passengers need to climb over me to get to their seat or use the toilet." In April 2014 a man with multiple sclerosis was unable to board a domestic Jetstar flight after check-in staff told him his wife would have to lift him into his seat without help from cabin crew because of health and safety concerns. Unlike many Qantas and Virgin services between major Australian cities, which offer an electric hoist, Jetstar only provides a 'slide board'. Toilets Toilets on planes are usually tiny, so access can be a problem for many people. Some planes offer a privacy curtain so the door can be left open while a carer assists. The 747-300s (now phased out in Australia but still in operation overseas) and the 767-200s and 767-300s have outward-opening doors for easier access; and some of the newer wide-bodied jets, like the A380 and the 747-400, include an accessible toilet. If you plan to board the plane using an aisle wheelchair, check with staff to make sure it will be available during the flight to access the toilet. Wheelchairs If you're travelling with a wheelchair, almost all airlines will ask you to check it in. Some budget airlines won't carry electric wheelchairs at all, and those that do may disconnect the battery and carry it separately. In May 2014, Air Asia refused to check in a Western Australian man's electric wheelchair on a flight to Bali. The airline's policy prevents the carriage of battery-operated wheelchairs. Even after the man offered to remove the battery and leave it behind, he was told the chair exceeded the maximum weight limit. Most airlines have a greater baggage weight limit for mobility aids and medical supplies, and only a few of the budget airlines will charge extra. For health and safety reasons there may be a limit on individual item weight and dimensions, so you could face difficulties if you have a heavier wheelchair that can't be taken apart. Shipping the wheelchair as freight is an alternative option, as is hiring one at your destination. Assistance dogs Assistance dogs are generally allowed to travel on the floor of the cabin on domestic flights. International flights may be trickier because of quarantine laws and airport rules in the country you're travelling to. You'll also need to consider the quarantine requirements when returning to Australia. Tip: Speak to the airline well in advance and be sure that you have the necessary paperwork from an accredited animal training organisation. Airport security If you have a wheelchair or mobility aid and you're unable to pass through the metal detector without it, staff may search you with a handheld device. If they opt to do a physical search, you have the right to ask for a private room. Security staff might also search inside mobility aids. Try not to take it personally, smuggling does happen: last year a man was caught at Madrid airport hiding a kilogram of cocaine inside his prosthetic leg.