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Author Topic: Airline travel with crutches- what to expect ?  (Read 5900 times)

Offline missmyknee

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Airline travel with crutches- what to expect ?
« on: February 26, 2008, 09:01:53 PM »
All

I am leaving tomorrow to fly to California. I am on crutches, partial weight bearing. What can I expect at the airport and airplane. will I be able to keep my crutches on the plane , at my seat ? Do I board before eveyone else? Any other info would be helpful. Last time I flew was in 05, because I have a TKR and plate and screws in lower leg, I've been thru the pat down , wanding procedure, and show and tell, but have never experienced crutches while flying.

Thanks so much   ;D

Pam
4Fx Clsd red
IMrod fib plate
derotate osteotmy tibfib
AF
IPCS patbaja
DeLeeOsteotmy,LOA,LR Zplasty,bongrf,chondrplty
chondrplty,LOA,fatpad remvd
TKR
openLOA,neurectmy,ITB Zplasty,fabela
PLC recon,revison,LOA,synovec
MCL,revison LOA
openLOA,prox Zplasty
openLOA, 6 neuromas excised,synov
3 Fusions

Offline maryc

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Re: Airline travel with crutches- what to expect ?
« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2008, 09:07:31 PM »
Call the airline and arrange for a wheelchair at both departure and landing- you will be glad you did.  When you check in ask for  pre-boarding that will allow you to get settled on the plane before everyone else.  Your crutches may fit in the overhead bin, if not, they flight attendant can put them in the closet up front.  You can't keep them at your seat, because you must have the aisle and your foot area clear for takeoffs and landings.
8/4/07 fell
8/5 diagnosed TPF
8/6 surgery plate and 6 screws
8/12 out of hospital NWM
8/21 staples removed
9/18 OS appt - WBAT with crutches
10/10 - WBAT with cane
10/27 - back to work w/cane
12/26 - no cane, slight limp when tired
1/25/08 - released from PT, no limp
2/3/09 - Released by OS

Offline WADEAL

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Re: Airline travel with crutches- what to expect ?
« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2008, 09:13:08 PM »
Expect to be helped enormously.

I recently flew to the USA afew months back and they bent over backwards to help.

Yes, crutches can be stowed in the overhead bins if they are the metal type that fold down, or used to get you to your seat and then looked after by the cabin crew on take off and landing if they are the wooden type. The isles are narrow on most aeroplanes, so see if you can get a seat next to the door and on first. They should help you again. I found that the most awkward part of the whole experience. Shuffling sidewards on crutches is difficult in a narrow space.

At the other end, the US airlines offered me a wheelchair and a ride on a cart between terminals. If you get offered take it - you'll get through customs first! LOL I made the mistake of being a bit too independent and got stuck in a queue.

You'll need to pass the crutches through the metal detectors separately, but again they are trained to help and will probably treat you better than "joe average".

Enjoy the trip

Regards

WAL

Offline ekbote

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Re: Airline travel with crutches- what to expect ?
« Reply #3 on: February 26, 2008, 10:46:27 PM »
Ask for wheelchair service. There is no charge for this service.

Offline Jaci

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Re: Airline travel with crutches- what to expect ?
« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2008, 12:37:22 AM »
Hi Pam,

I flew a number of times during my 3+ years on crutches. Here are the things that worked for me:

-- When you're packing, be sure to pack medication in a carryon, not in checked luggage. I always just take the Rx bottles, but if you put them in another container take copies of the original label or the 'official receipt' that shows you name and name of the doctor. I've never had a problem but I do know of people who did when they tried to take on meds with no labels on them.

-- Definitely use the wheelchair to get to and from the gate. If you didn't request one ahead of time (like when you made reservation), just ask at the checkin desk. And ask that they input a request for when you get to your destination and for your return flight.

-- Wear shoes that are easy to remove since you'll have to take them off and send them through the x-ray screener.

-- It's okay to ask the wheelchair person to stop at the restroom on the way to the gate.

-- I always tried to get an aisle seat on the left-hand side of the plane, that way I didn't have to step out into the aisle on my left leg and worry about it locking up or giving out after sitting for some time (Airlines in the US do not allow people on crutches sit at an emergency exit because they cannot help in the event of an emergency)

-- Some people request a bulk-head seat (usually the first row behind 1 st class) however there is often a wall in front of the seats. I tired it and could not stretch my legs out fully, I was in absolute agony during that trip.

-- Use the early boarding for 'people needing a bit more time' The ramp down to the plane can be pretty long and is sometimes steep. You can have them take you in a wheel chair all the way to the door of the plane. I did that a couple times when my knee was really bad.

-- As others mentioned, you cannot keep your crutches at your seat. If they put them in the closet, you'll have to ask for your crutches if you need to get up. It's easier if you can put them over head, but the bins are often over filled.

-- I always take a rubber icebag and an ace wrap. I used to take gel packs, but they don't allow those anymore. I get ice from a fast food place while I'm waiting for take off and the flight attendants are usually pretty willing to refill it if needed. You can aso just take a couple ziplock bags to put ice in. If you don't provide some type of bag the flight attendant is likely to put ice in an air sickness bag. It doesn't work very well and is prone to leak. I use the ice pack during take off to reduce swelling and pain brought on by the sudden change in cabin pressure.

-- I know you mentioned that you are partial weight-bearing, so you'll need your crutches to move around. I'll mention this tip for others who might read this thread: When I still needed 2 crutches for distance, but could manage very short walks with a cane, I took a folding cane in my carrying on and used the cane if I needed to get up. Dozing people hate to have the back of their seat jostled if you have to grab onto to something for balance. The folding cane fits in the seat back pocket so I put it there as soon as I get seated.

-- Get up and move around if you need to. The flight attendants don't let people stand around in the front of the plane, but I've never had a problem with being able to stand up in the back of the plane for a bit. I always check with someone before doing so.

-- I always wait until everyone else has de-planed, unless I have a seat in the very front. I find it easier to wait for everyone else to get off; you don't have to worry about get bumped into. Plus, if the wheel chair is picking you up at the airplane door rather than at the top of the ramp, you don't have to listen to people groaning and getting annoyed because you're holding them up. 

-- When you get to your destination, someone with a wheelchair will take you all the way to baggage claim, if needed, or they'll take you to rental cars, shuttles, or where ever you need to go.

Happy traveling!!

Jaci
 
« Last Edit: February 27, 2008, 12:48:28 AM by Jaci »
10/03 Twist injury
12/03 Menisectomy- tears ACL, MCL, & LCL missed by OS
Arthrofibrosis ROM 38-68
3/04- 4/08 Multiple scar tissue procedures:
6 scopes w/LOA, AIR, LR, chondroplasty, synovectomy, bone spur & plica removal
3 insufflations, many injections
Chronic AF, patella infera, IPCS

Offline missmyknee

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Re: Airline travel with crutches- what to expect ?
« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2008, 01:39:14 AM »
Jaci, WADEAL,ekbote, MaryC


Thank you all for taking the time to write great ideas. I wish I had posted this earlier so I could have made better arrangements regarding wheel chairs and buy a folding cane. I am going to LAX in Los Angeles . Daughter's college tour. I will be able to walk thru the detector, but need the crutches for any walking more than several steps. Anything more causes a big flare in my compressed nerve and my OS doesn't want the knee to get aggravated. I'm thinking they might not allow gel paks since the last crack down where they only allowed 3 oz bottles. I'll take zip lock bags for ice. The folding cane is a great idea too ! I hope I can board early and will wait til all leave. I always do that when I am sitting in a crowd or audience situation. I plan on wearing my usual "gym" clothes so I can have something to pull up my leg and hopefully not take my brace off. I had to do that one time  >:( Husband and daughter will be with me , so I'll have help there.

I've been so preoccupied with other aspects of this trip and other things, that I completely forgot about the crutches and flying part.  ::)

Thanks so much  ;D  I just hope I don't go thru a big nerve flare up while I'm gone. That will be hard to deal with.

Pam
4Fx Clsd red
IMrod fib plate
derotate osteotmy tibfib
AF
IPCS patbaja
DeLeeOsteotmy,LOA,LR Zplasty,bongrf,chondrplty
chondrplty,LOA,fatpad remvd
TKR
openLOA,neurectmy,ITB Zplasty,fabela
PLC recon,revison,LOA,synovec
MCL,revison LOA
openLOA,prox Zplasty
openLOA, 6 neuromas excised,synov
3 Fusions

Offline austinknee

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Re: Airline travel with crutches- what to expect ?
« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2008, 02:18:43 AM »
Hi ..I know everyone has great posts.

I just flew home from a surgery...I was 10 days post op... I was in a straight leg immobilizer.  Mom drove me up to the curbside checkin...she left me in the car..went into the american terminal...the guy came right out and got my bags on a cart and me in a wheelchair. The pushed my bags on the cart and me in the chair to the ticket counter...my mom then left to return our rental car.  At the counter I asked for seat 7 aisle. I had my left leg done.  The seat 7 on this plane was the bulkhead seat...on the three seat side of planes there is often no wall on the aisle bulkhead seat....there was nothing in front of me...almost the ailse to first class.  They hold those seats for disabled people.  They gave it to me. (she said if someone showed up worse than me I would have to give it up)  They wheeled me to the security...they put my stuff on the security belt thing and then rolled me past the line to a side area..they wanded me all over and looked around the chair... The crutches went through the security scanner too...said Im not allowed to go through on them.....the woman gathered my stuff off the security belt and loaded it all on me...she pushed me to my gate..unloaded me on a chair...I tipped her and she left.  The airlines pre boarded me. I coudnt carry one of my bags down the aisle and had my other a backpack on my back.  They put my bag up for me.  I crutched down the long ramp and onto the plane. Be careful of the long ramp...I almost lost my balance on one of those steep transtion parts.  I kept my crutches with me.   Siince I was the bulkhead seat...I got to stand my crutches up right behind the first class seats.  They didnt care. When we took off....I got my one crutch from the seat in front of me...stuck it out in front of my and propped my leg up on it...(the arm part was on the seat under my thigh..I put a blanket on the other part...it wasnt in the way and no one said a thing.)

I had a change in Dallas.  I had requested a wheelchair. It did not show up b/c they changed the gate last minute.  I had a tight connection and was flipping out.  They got me on one of those moter cart things and barely got me to my connection in time.   The next flight was not as great b/c I got put in an aisle seat with my bad leg on the inside.  I crutched down the aisle again......very very nice people on board helped me put my bags up and my crutches went right in too. Someone suggested I put the crutches on the bottom under the bags. DONT DO THAT...then you cant get them out to go to the bathroom.  My leg was killing me on this flight and when the seat belt sign went off I just stood up in the aisle right were my seat was. I dont care if anyone cared....and no one said anything to me.

The next connection someone picked me up and took me to baggage claim. It was quick and easy. My husband met me there....

For the flight....I think trying to get a baggie of ice would have been a lifesaver..that is a  great idea.  You might take some pain meds even if you dont normally need them.  Drink LOTS of water....flight dehydrates you.  If you do not have a contraindication..you  might start some aspirin...to help decrease DVT risk.  Pump your feet a LOT while you are on the plane...blood return is passive...if you just sit there the blood doesnt move...just move your foot up and down like you are pushing a gas pedal......I was really uncomfortable in  my brace on the plane..I took mine off and just held it between my legs and then put it on after I landed.  I can say it was not really a pleasant experience.....but...I got where I wanted to go....

Good luck to you!!!

Laura
LR 11/2006
LR Reconstruction scheduled 2/08

Offline dm

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Re: Airline travel with crutches- what to expect ?
« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2008, 02:54:24 AM »
Something I did, which I would recommend to anyone who wears a brace and may need to have a physical inspection of it .. .particularly when its cold inside or out... is to get a pair of sweatpants about 2 sizes too big, yes, that big for this reason .... install a zipper down the affected leg. I found that the 30" long plastic parka zippers, not the metal ones, work nicely. Getting the sweats too big guarantees that the brace will fit inside the sweats after you modify them for the zipper.

This way, when you have someone ask to physically see the brace, such as for a security inspection, you don't have to worry about finding somewhere to drop your drawers, or to try unsuccessfully to pull up your pant leg, you just unzip from the ankle.

I made a pair just for wearing to the doctor, so I didn't have to get undressed to take my brace off and to get my knee looked at, which is downright drafty when it's cold outside, and doctor's offices are never warm enough for some reason.

They're also handy for when it's chilly and you wear a brace that needs frequent adjusting.
multiple arthroscopies 2/00,3/01,6/01,1/03, 12/07,10/10. chondromalacia, severe medial joint space narrowing following 3 partial menisectomies, chronic pain problems, kneecap problems, OCD lesion, failed mfx.

Offline Kris

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Re: Airline travel with crutches- what to expect ?
« Reply #8 on: February 27, 2008, 03:49:16 AM »
I had pretty much the same worries when I flew two months after my partial knee replacement.  I had only been walking with a cane for a short time before I had to travel so I wasn't too steady on my feet, but could manage short distances. 

I fully recommend the wheelchair approach.  I had one waiting for me when I landed and then one the way back when I took off.  I didn't really need one when I took off in KC because it was a relatively small airport and not much congestion at the time.  My biggest problem was trying to figure out how to take my shoes off.  I couldn't find a chair close by, but somehow managed.  I had to also put the cane in the x-ray machine, but the security lady was nice enough to lend me her arm.   However, in the wheelchair they just wheeled me through the line, I stood up to walk through the machine which was just a short two steps and then was done and on my way.  Just remember to tip the "driver".  I don't know about crutches, but I was able to keep my cane with me at my seat.

Good luck traveling.  It'll be a memorable experience.

Kris
Right  LR on 2/8/02,  7/11/03, and 11/5/05
Left leg LR on 5/02, 4/05
Right achilles tendon lengthened on 2/01.   Synvisc injections on 2/17/03. 
Cortisone on 12/03 and 3/04, 12/05. 
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Offline missmyknee

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Re: Airline travel with crutches- what to expect ?
« Reply #9 on: February 27, 2008, 04:35:42 AM »
Hi Laura, DM, and Kris

I am taking off from KC..Ha, Kris !  You guys brought up some other good points. TIPPING ! I'm not an experienced traveler so would have not thought of this if DH did not bring it up...he's the experienced one . Also taking pain meds before going....good idea !!!! Maybe even 2 pills ! Also asprin....I take that for my heart....heel pumps.

I will be wearing those NIKE nylon wind pants that zip up the side. I can get them up almost all the way over the brace. I wear a DJ defiance custom brace...one of those carbon fiber ones that are all open. I wear a small neoprene sleeve on the thigh so the brace doesn't slip. I hope this will be good enough. In the past I had a playmaker which has all neoprene. Maybe wear nylon shorts under the pants, like for PT ...that way I can do a striptease ....hahaha  :o

This is first time for daughter to fly.

Thanks everyone.....these are very helpful ideas, not only to me, but to anyone who reads this post in the future   ;D

Pam
4Fx Clsd red
IMrod fib plate
derotate osteotmy tibfib
AF
IPCS patbaja
DeLeeOsteotmy,LOA,LR Zplasty,bongrf,chondrplty
chondrplty,LOA,fatpad remvd
TKR
openLOA,neurectmy,ITB Zplasty,fabela
PLC recon,revison,LOA,synovec
MCL,revison LOA
openLOA,prox Zplasty
openLOA, 6 neuromas excised,synov
3 Fusions