You have to be prepared to deal with airport security and airline personnel when traveling with your shower chair or commode. There will be obstacles that you will have to deal with, but first, you should know what your rights are. A Google search for “airline and wheelchair” will return some useful information, but we will condense it here. Your portable shower chair/commode is considered a “fragile medical device” and you will need to “gate-check” it. You should not be charged for it as extra baggage.
Gate-checking your wheelchair means that you will need to go through security with your commode/shower chair, onto the gate and finally on the jet-way. On the plane will be stored in a closet that separates first class from economy or it might be stored below in the cargo area along with your wheelchair.
The latter situation is probably more likely since a number of airlines have used that space for more seating in order to maximize revenue. That on-board storage space might be available on the bigger planes used on international flights. We will now take a look at how to successfully check your portable shower chair/commode at no extra cost:
You should pack your commode/shower chair in its proper carrying case even before you leave home, including all your medical supplies. You can also pack in clothing or any other required items with the exception of gels or liquids. Since you won’t be charged for this item, you might as well take advantage of the extra storage space and save money.
Check in with the airline rep once you get to the airline service desk. Avoid checking in electronically. Check your regular baggage and pay for it if necessary. As of the writing of this article, Southwest is the only airline that doesn’t charge for your first checked piece of luggage and is, therefore, the top of the list of air carriers.
Be sure to properly label and tag all of your baggage. Ask the airline agent for the pink gate-check tags for your wheelchair and your portable shower chair/commode. If they tell you that you have to check your shower chair/commode as regular baggage, that you have to pay for it or you are given a difficult time in any way, it is time to become more assertive.
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