Airline Safety for Seniors
The airlines have been in the news a lot lately, and for all the wrong reasons. Customer services issues that were recorded by outraged passengers and shared on social media channels highlighted some fairly serious shortcomings in airline passenger service. While these instances are — hopefully — few and far between, it does bring the issue of passenger rights to the forefront again.
It’s important to know your rights, especially if you or a loved one who will be traveling with you is a senior, before you board your next flight.
Senior Safety and Passenger Rights
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has tried to make flying a little easier for older adults. This includes relaxing some of the rules that apply to younger travelers.
Here’s a quick rundown on what older flyers should know:
- Easier, Faster Screening: Expedited screening is available for senior passengers. This means adults 75 years of age and older can leave their shoes and a light jacket on during the screening process. While shoes will be screened by an agent, seniors can ask to be seated during the process.
- Medical Conditions: Older adults who have disabilities or health conditions that require special equipment or medications, should review TSA rules well in advance of their flight. The TSA site shares important information, such as making sure medication bottles are clearly labeled and how it is important to inform the TSA agent at the security checkpoint if a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.
- FAA Approved Oxygen Concentrator: Passengers who require oxygen must work with the airline ahead of time. The inconsistencies in cabin pressure can make oxygen tanks unstable. Some, but not all, airlines allow the use of FAA-approved portable oxygen concentrators in lieu of oxygen tanks. However, these rules vary by airline so you must call the airline no less than 48 hours in advance of your flight. If you or your senior loved one can’t disconnect the oxygen during the screening process, you might need a note from the prescribing physician to share with the TSA agent.
- Wheelchairs and Electric Carts: For those who require the use of a wheelchair or electric cart to navigate through the airport itself, experts say to book one ahead of time with the airline and then confirm the day before your flight. While there is still no guarantee the airline will actually have one available without a long wait during a busy travel time, it does improve the odds.
One final tip to help alleviate some of the wear and tear of travel on seniors is to apply for the TSA Pre-Check. This process begins with an online application and scheduling of a ten-minute, in-person background check.
The appointment can take place at any one of 380 different enrollment center locations. A senior will undergo a routine background check complete with fingerprinting. If approved, the $85 fee will allow an older adult to speed through TSA checkpoints for the next five years.
We hope these tips help make the airports and skies friendlier for seniors and their families during the busy summer travel season!