Just wondering...haven't been on a flight for several years, but worried about booking due to steps down from plane! Is there a handrail, and is it easy to grab it? I seem to remember, at a time when I didn't need handrails, that they were at an awkward angle from the top step if that makes sense...that you sort of had to go onto the first step down before you could hold the handle? Is this something that anyone has encountered at all please? Want to book a flight, but at the moment, this is putting me off. To all intents and purposes I look 'normal' so people are bound to wonder why I'm dithering at the top of the steps!

15 Replies

  • Hi Jill😊

    Most of the flights I've been on, the plane taxied to an enclosed walkway. This led directly to the departure gate area. The entire walkway was manageable on foot but it was also possible to be taken along in a wheelchair. Short haul flights are probably different. If there are no appropriate replies, you could either ring an airline or ask your travel agent to find out for you😊xB

  • Thanks for your reply. Yes it would be shorthall, so I think I would have to walk out to the plane and go up and down the steps. Up is not a problem, but down could be. To be honest, if I waited until everyone else was off that might be okay, as at least then I wouldn't be rushed. Thanks, Jill

  • Hi Jill,

    I travel regularly for work. Like most of the other posts I too wait until the rush has gone before getting off. The crews are pretty good at taking small baggage down to leave me to slowly get off. There is always a handrail and I have had no problems with them

    Don't let getting off the plane inhibit you from travel


  • Hi.

    I went on some easyjet shorthalls recently and from what I remember the steps were fine. I can't walk down them without holding on so there must have been a easy handrail to grab! Wait for the crowds to pile off then you can happily wobble down at the end :)

    You could let them know before hand too, and the crew might be able to help you if a bit nervous on the steps. Also seen them pick out people with sticks and kids and let them board first with the priorities.

  • I book assistance, if it is steps then they have and adapted lift, like they use for the food, this lifts up and then you walk onto the plane, the only thing is that you are first on and last off!

  • I always book assistance and did so even before I had my wheelchair. Then someone will help you down the steps and carry your handluggage/handbag etc. Don't be shy asking for help. There is a handrail too. Btw if you're using Stansted Airport then it's a long walk to the gate. Before I had my own I used to borrow a wheelchair. Reserve that when you choose the assistance.

    good luck 🍀. It'll be fine. Xx


  • There is always a handrail. An even bigger problem is the open space just inside the front door of the plane. It is just too wide to grab onto anything, which means climbing the stairs, then juggling with a walking stick for just one step, then it is easier just to walk along the aircraft using the headrests.

    It is MUCH easier getting on at the rear. The steps are usually wider. There is usually a handrail, and I can immediately grab onto something solid when entering the plane. So there is no need to worry about using a walking stick for just one step.

    It doesn't sound like much, but having one less thing to think about as you board the plane, makes life so much easier.

    Iain :)

  • thanks for the tip about boarding at the rear of the plane!

  • I have traveled on many short haul flights which have quite steep steps and as you mentioned, an awkward handrail. I don't use any walking Aids but my dad does and he always asks a crew member to help him/carry down his stick. Personally I'm a lot more shakes when I know people are watching but I'm okay going up (there will probably be others who find the steps challenging) but when I need to get off I absorb myself in a book for example and let all the others off the plane meaning I'm the last one, and I wobble down the stairs safe in the knowledge no one is watching. Don't overthink things, believe in yourself and as I do, always try to push yourself (as much as possible). I hope you decide to go for it and just go at your own pace.

  • Thanks to everyone who has replied and really encouraged me. I am still slightly at the phase of not quite believing I've got Ataxia, but then when I mention how I'm feeling to other people (especially on this site) I am amazed that many people respond having felt exactly the same. So many of your replies touch on the things that I am feeling. Overthinking certainly seems to be a real problem I have at the moment and worrying about other people's reactions, but thank you so much for all your encouraging words. I am hoping to fly out to see our son, in Northern Ireland, so it would just be a very short flight, but even before booking the flight, as you can tell, I am already thinking about the potential problems...!! Thanks again.

  • Once told, the airline will make their life easiest by putting you in a wheelchair. Do not be embarrassed. They do this with everyone. They supply the wheelchair and the cabin crew will look after you. Turn up early and they will board you first. Disembarkation might be done by a different route to other passengers as destination airport will supply a wheelchair. Take the airline's help. They want your custom. Your presence will add variety to a mundane trip. HTH

  • Dear Jillj

    I know what you mean. Some handrails only start after a step or two.I have been on very long haul flights and aside from a small step upon entering the cabin, I never see a step . My airport seems to have a "sleeve" which connects the cabin to the departure lounge.

  • I echo the advice about asking for a wheelchair. I have found the airlines and staff to be very friendly and helpful at every airport I've flown to or through (Heathrow, Zurich, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban). All you need to do is telephone the airline at least the day before, and get to the airport early - I'm usually at least an hour early. Sometimes you will get someone who is new to the job and they can get a bit flustered when you turn up in a wheelchair, so early is best. Also, don't worry if you think you may be too early, I've found the staff are often standing around quite bored and happy for the diversion. Just smile a lot and be friendly - they can't help smiling back, at least that's what I have found.

  • Book assistance but there are handrails if you have to get off the plane like that or they use a high riser which is great. Usually all airports are great with the exception of Gatwick funnily enough they're pants!!!!!

    Been all over the world and they're the absolute worst as they forgot to call you. Tosses !!!!

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