How to Help Senior Travelers in the Airport and on the Plane

A Senior Comes to Visit

Your grandparents are coming for Christmas? Or maybe a friend who just happens to be an older person? Terrific.

But your job doesn’t end with issuing the invitation. Remember, today’s airport is a busy, crowded place with long lines – and some seniors may not be up to it.

Questions to Ask Before the Flight

Here are some questions you need to know the answers to before planning this trip:

  • Is your older visitor a world traveler or hasn’t flown since before 9/11?
  • Can your visitor run a 5K or does he or she need some help getting around?
  • Is your 90 year old grandmother sharp as a tack or a little forgetful?

The answers will tell you what you can and should do to help make the trip as smooth as possible.

Helpful Strategies for Senior Fliers

We’ve got some “help strategies” that may come in handy. Take a look, then add some that have worked for you.

Buy Nonstop Tickets

You know how much you hate connecting flights – don’t afflict them on someone you love. Minimize time spent in the airport, and your senior flier will thank you.

Help with Packing

This can be accomplished by long distance; all you need is a list and a phone. Remind your older traveler about glasses or hearing aids and batteries, but don’t forget to mention reading material and advice on clothes they’ll need. Do bring them up-to-date on the TSA rules and what ID they’ll need.

Don’t forget to remind your visitor to take a credit card since most airlines don’t accept cash onboard anymore. Also remind them that there’s no more free food on planes, so they’re prepared for that (and can pack a lunch if they choose).

And depending on your visitor’s constitution, this is one time when I might suggest the flier skip the carryon bag and pay the bag fee.

Consider a Travel Companion

If you or your visitor have the extra money for another ticket, a traveling companion would be ideal for some seniors. Or, you could play escort yourself. Again, this is an expensive option, and not for everyone.

Airline and Airport Escort

When you make the airline reservations, be sure to request an airline escort. If a wheelchair is needed, make that clear as well. Enlist a friend to accompany your traveler to the airport and even up to the gate for an extra feeling of security (your’s and your visitor’s). Be sure to ask the airline how this friend can get a pass to the gate.

Confirm All Reservations

Flights can change on travelers no matter how old they are, and sometimes at the last minute. Check online frequently for any updates and be sure your phone or email is listed with the reservation on the “must contact” list in the event of changes. And reconfirm your request for an escort.

Hire a Car for the Trip to the Airport

Contact a reputable limo company that provides door-to-door service for your senior traveler and be sure to exchange cell phone numbers with the driver beforehand. This is one service that’s well worth paying for. Note: let the company know that the tip will be included in the credit card payment, and be sure the driver is aware of this so he or she won’t accept any money from your senior traveler.

Nice touch: have a friend accompany the senior on the way to and from the airport – they may be helpful with ensuring that the wheelchair is where it’s supposed to be.

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Published: October 7, 2010