Barrier-Free Travel
A Nuts And Bolts Guide For Wheelers And Slow Walkers — Sample Chapter

On a Wing and a Prayer
Protecting Your Equipment

Getting to your holiday destination with a minimum of muss and fuss can sometimes be a challenge. Getting your wheelchair or scooter to that same destination, in one piece, can be an even greater chore. No matter how hard travel is on people, it can be even harder on assistive devices. Generally speaking, passengers aren’t stripped of their clothing and thrown into the cargo bin; a fate which many wheelchairs and scooters must routinely endure.

Unfortunately, equipment damage is still a top ranked problem for wheelers, but don’t throw in the towel yet, as it’s still possible to get your equipment to your final destination relatively unscathed. Of course, as with all aspects of travel, it takes a bit of planning and preparation. Although the whole process may seem rather daunting at first, after a few trips you’ll have it down to a science, and then you’ll be ready for just about anything.

Before we get into the nuts and bolts here (literally), I must share an anecdote with you. This unfortunate travel tale comes from a reader named Dan. It’s about his first air travel experience as a wheeler, and it definitely gets my vote as the ultimate in wheelchair damage stories.

Dan uses a power wheelchair with gel cell batteries, and even though he could have gate checked his wheelchair, he relented at check-in and transferred to an airport wheelchair. His plane was then delayed due to weather, and he ended up spending an extra hour in the uncomfortable airport wheelchair. But Dan saw past the pain, as he was really looking forward to his vacation. He remained optimistic.

To his delight, when boarding time came things went like clockwork. Dan was boarded first. He had no problems with the aisle chair and his reserved seat had a moveable armrest. Things couldn’t have gone any better. Dan sat back and stared out the window while the other passengers boarded. He was in a semi dream state when he noticed an unusual object out on the tarmac.

Upon closer examination, it appeared to be his wheelchair. Just as he was about to call the flight attendant he noticed another object approaching the wheelchair -- a 747 backing up out of the gate. He sat there speechless as he watched the jumbo jet crush his wheelchair. Ultimately he canceled his trip. On the positive side, this incident happened while he was at home rather than while he was on the road.

Fortunately Dan’s experience is not the norm, but it does illustrate the importance of staying in your own wheelchair as long as possible. In Dan’s case the cargo handlers forgot to move Dan’s wheelchair off the tarmac when his flight was delayed. In theory, if Dan had stayed in his own wheelchair up to the aircraft door, it would have been taken directly to the cargo bin instead of sitting on the tarmac. Today Dan always turns down the airport wheelchair, no matter how hard the check-in agent tries to convince him otherwise.

Dan’s story pretty much represents the worst case scenario. The only thing I can ever imagine being worse is actually being in your wheelchair when a 747 backs over it. So when you encounter equipment damage problems, think about Dan. You’ll be able to take some comfort in the fact that no matter how bad things are, at least a jumbo jet didn’t roll over your wheelchair.

Canes, Crutches and Walkers

The best way to protect your assistive device from damage (short of staying home) is to keep it out of the cargo bin. The good news is, in many cases, it may be stored on board. Under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), airlines must permit canes, crutches and walkers in the cabin, provided they can be stowed in the designated storage areas, in the overhead compartments or under the seats. Additionally, assistive devices (and other medical supplies) do not count towards the carry-on baggage limit.

Assistive devices need to be stowed for takeoff and landing; but in most cases canes and crutches can be placed in the overhead bins. You should make it a point to get your cane back after takeoff, as you will need it if you want to move about the cabin. Additionally, if there were an emergency, it would be a good idea to have it with you. If you have problems retrieving your assistive device, just ask a flight attendant for assistance.

Alternatively, you might consider traveling with a lightweight folding cane, that can fit in the seatback pocket. That way you know it will always be within your reach.

Walkers can usually be carried in the passenger compartment, but again it depends on their size. Under the ACAA, the priority storage area for assistive devices must be at least 13 inches by 36 inches by 42 inches, so if your walker can fit in that space, there’s a good chance it can be carried on board. Be aware that other assistive devices may also need to be stored there, and that this space is only required on aircraft with 100 or more seats. Walkers may also be stowed in overhead bins, if they can fit. Frankly, walkers don’t fare very well in the cargo bin, so it’s a good idea to invest in a folding model that will fit in the on board storage space. It’s also a good idea to check the seat maps on www.seatguru.com to see if your aircraft has an onboard closet; as many folding walkers can fit in that space.

And although you’re not likely to stow a support harness during the flight, it’s worth noting that some people have had problems bringing them on board. The most recent incident involved 15-year old Avery Ottenbreit, who was refused a return flight to Regina on Canada’s WestJet. The issue at hand was Avery’s butterfly harness, which she wears for torso support. WestJet flight attendants had problems with the harness because they claimed it would prevent her from assuming the “brace” position in case of an emergency landing. Ultimately she was taken off the plane.

It should be noted that this incident took place aboard a Canadian airline. In the US you can’t take aboard any type of a harness that straps to the seat, unless it’s approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). At this time only one model makes the cut, and it can only be used on children over one year old who weigh between 22-40 pounds. But medical harnesses or casts aren’t specifically prohibited. Still, the incident is worth noting, especially if you plan to travel on WestJet.

Manual Wheelchairs

Manual wheelchairs can also be stored in the cabin on many aircraft. Under the ACAA, aircraft with more that 100 seats must also contain a priority storage space for one adult collapsible wheelchair. This space must measure at least 13 inches by 36 inches by 42 inches. It cannot be in the overhead compartments or in the underseat spaces routinely used for passenger carry-ons.

If your wheelchair has quick release wheels, the wheels can be removed and stored in the overhead bins, if the assembled wheelchair won’t fit in the priority storage space. If the wheel removal requires the use of any tools, the wheels are not permitted to be removed, and the wheelchair will have to be carried in the cargo bin if it won’t fit in the priority storage space.

This rule applies to US carriers, for new aircraft ordered after April 5, 1990, or delivered after April 5, 1992. It also applies to foreign carriers, on flights beginning or ending in the US; on aircraft ordered after May 13, 2009 or delivered after May 13, 2010

Remember to take advantage of the preboarding privilege, as your assistive device only gets priority space in the designated storage area if you preboard the aircraft. In fact, under the ACAA, if crew members have their gear stored in the priority storage space, they are required to move it. Same goes for other passengers. Again, this only applies if you preboard, so never pass on the opportunity.

Additionally, remember that the priority storage space can only accommodate one wheelchair, so if you travel with another wheeler, one wheelchair will end up in the cargo bin. It never hurts to be first in line to preboard.

Although priority storage space is mandated under the ACAA, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has granted some exemptions, and allows some airlines to strap the wheelchairs to empty seats. This is usually done because of the configuration of the aircraft; and although it’s rare, you may see it done. Under the ACAA, US airlines may not use the seat strapping method on aircraft ordered after May 13, 2009 or delivered after May 13, 2011.

As you can see, it’s very important to learn the rules of the ACAA as they apply to onboard wheelchair storage. Don’t be afraid to speak up when you feel your rights have been violated. Front line employees don’t always know or understand the rules under the ACAA, so sometimes you have to go up a few levels in order to get results.

Of course if you can’t keep your wheelchair out of the cargo bin, it’s a good idea to travel with an older wheelchair (if you have one). Some people travel with an old backup wheelchair. Another good solution is to rent a wheelchair or scooter at your destination. Obviously this option only works for people who use a wheelchair or scooter for distance, but it is something to consider.

Power Wheelchairs and Scooters

Most power wheelchairs and scooters must be carried in the baggage compartment, except for some small lightweight folding models. Again, this depends on the aircraft size and the availability of onboard storage space. Best bet is to purchase a model that will fit in the priority storage space. The down side to this is, many of the compact travel scooters have plastic parts and they don’t fare too well in the baggage compartment.

Full-sized scooters and power wheelchairs routinely go into the cargo bin, but the rules and regulations differ depending on the battery type of the assistive device. Those that have non-spillable (gel cell) batteries do not have to have the batteries removed and packaged separately. Furthermore, the ACAA prohibits airlines from disconnecting the cables and wrapping the terminals on non-spillable batteries, unless the FAA or the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration (PHMSA) or foreign government safety regulations require them to do so. Currently no US regulations require this, so these batteries should not be disconnected.

On the other hand, if your wheelchair has a spillable battery, in most cases the entire battery is removed and packed in a protective container. The one exception is if the wheelchair can be loaded, stored, secured and unloaded in an upright position. This is usually dependant on the aircraft type, as some chairs have to be tilted or turned in order to fit through the cargo door. It’s best to just assume your battery will be removed.

If you travel with an assistive device with spillable batteries you are required to give the airline 48 hours notice and check in one hour prior to the standard check in time. This means you’ll have to use an airport wheelchair for at least two hours, maybe longer. You might want to consider changing to non-spillable batteries if they are compatible with your wheelchair. This simple change will save you a lot of time and trouble.

It’s also important to remember that the airlines will not transport damaged or leaking batteries, so make sure your equipment is in good repair before you head to the airport. Additionally, the airlines will remove and package any battery that is inadequately secured to a wheelchair or scooter. And finally, lithium batteries may not be permitted under the hazardous materials rules. It depends on the lithium content of the battery, so check with the airline before you book your flight.

You will be asked about the specifics of your batteries when you check in for your flight. If you have non-spillable batteries, make sure they are clearly marked so they won’t be inadvertently removed. If you don’t have any labeling on your batteries, check with a local medical supply house as they usually carry labels that are appropriate.

You should also learn how to reconnect your batteries. Although your assistive device is suppose to be returned to you with the batteries reconnected, sometimes this just doesn’t happen. Knowing how to reconnect your batteries will save you time and frustration. Even if you are physically unable to reconnect them yourself, you can always direct someone else to do this. In the end, it may save your wheelchair or scooter from further damage.

Excess Baggage or Assistive Device?

With the airlines tightening their belts these days, most carriers now charge extra for just about everything, including checked baggage. So if your wheelchair or scooter has to be carried in the cargo bin, can the airlines charge you for it?

Well, although the ACAA doesn’t specifically prohibit charging passengers for the transport of assistive devices, it does prohibit them charging passengers for accommodations required under the rule. And since the ACAA states that the airlines must accept wheelchairs and other assistive devices, the airlines are not allowed to charge for this required accommodation. Nor can they charge for wheelchair assistance at the airport or for the use of the aisle chair.

And if they ever start to charge for carry on bags, they can’t charge for assistive devices stowed in the cabin either.

But what about things like medical supplies, commode chairs or even shower chairs? Under the ACAA, an assistive device is defined as any piece of equipment that assists a passenger with a disability to cope with the effects of his or her disability. These devices are intended to assist a passenger maneuver or perform other functions of daily life and may include medical devices and medications. So under that definition it seems that medical supplies, commode chairs and shower chairs qualify as assistive devices, and thus are required to be transported free of charge.

On the other hand, items like handcycles or adaptive skiing equipment, may be classified as recreational equipment instead of assistive devices, and subject to baggage charges.

But like everything else, check with your airline in advance just so there are no misunderstandings or surprises at the check-in counter.

And again, this applies to all flights on US air carriers, and flights beginning or ending in the US on non-US air carriers.

Ironically, Jet2, a budget British carrier, considers prosthetic devices baggage, but will transport wheelchairs free of charge. Although the European Union Passengers with Reduced Mobility (EU PRM) regulations requires EU-based airlines to carry up to two pieces of mobility equipment free of charge, the regulations don’t define the term “mobility equipment”. Ultimately that determination is left up to the airlines, so be aware you may find some inconsistency throughout Europe. What may be considered an assistive device in the US, may be considered excess baggage across the Big Pond.

Some Disassembly Required?

Many wheelchairs can be transported in the cargo bin without being disassembled, but that of course also depends on the aircraft type. Here’s where knowing the dimensions of the aircraft, especially the width of the cargo door, comes in handy. For example let’s compare two aircraft; the EMB 145 which has 50 seats and the ATR 42-500 which has 46 seats.

Although both aircraft have approximately the same passenger capacity, the dimensions of their cargo doors vary drastically. The EMB 145 has a 39-inch cargo door while the ATR 42-500 has a 54-inch cargo door. So the EMB 145 might not be the ideal choice for a large wheelchair.

Even if your only choice was the EMB 145, it would help to know in advance that you wheelchair was going to be disassembled for transport. This knowledge also gives you the flexibility to shop around and perhaps find a larger aircraft. Sometimes this is the best bet, even if you have to drive to another gateway city.

Protection

One of the best things you can do to protect your assistive device is to attach clear assembly and disassembly instructions to your wheelchair or scooter. In fact, the ACAA requires the airlines to allow passengers to submit these instructions, and mandates that they follow them to the greatest extent possible.

Instructions should be written clearly and simply in both English and Spanish. If possible also use numbered illustrations or simple drawings to illustrate the assembly and disassembly procedure. Laminate the instructions and attach them securely to your assistive device. Clear assembly and disassembly instructions will help protect your assistive device. Many people even leave these instructions attached to their wheelchair or scooter all the time, as it saves preparation time when it’s time to travel.

Remove any loose or protruding parts from your wheelchair or scooter. This includes items like mirrors, cushions and leg rests. Put them in a duffel bag and carry them on the aircraft. Do not check them! Wheelchair parts fall under the category of assistive devices and are not counted as carry-on luggage.

Remember, something may be piled on top of your wheelchair in the cargo bin. If your wheelchair or scooter becomes a projectile object, loose or protruding parts may break upon impact. Additionally, remember to let a bit of air out of your tires and to carry on all gel cushions. Most cargo bins are not pressurized. It’s also a good idea to carry a compact bicycle pump with you so you can reinflate your tires when you reach your destination.

You will also need to protect your joystick if it’s not possible to easily remove it. A plastic cup and packing tape works well for this purpose.

It’s equally important to protect your controller. Says one frequent traveler, “I discovered that the very sturdy cardboard tubes that carpets are rolled on makes a great controller protective device. I scrounged an empty tube (some places call them cores) from the carpet store, then used a hacksaw to cut off the right length to slide over my controller. It works great.”

Says another traveler, “My controller unplugs easily so I just take it off (along with the entire armrest), stuff it in a duffel bag and carry it on with me.”

And one veteran road warrior swears by his tried and true method. “I carry a spare joystick and controller when I travel,” he says. “This is easy to do with an Invacare chair because all of the parts swap out. I stick some Velcro to the bottom of the spare controller. If I break down I just peel and stick my spare controller to the top of the battery box, disconnect the wires from the busted one and connect them to my backup. I do the same thing with my joystick.”

Many people come up with creative ways to protect their wheelchairs during transit. My friend Karen devised the following cheap and easy technique. “I travel fairly often and use an electric wheelchair,” she says. “I carry on all removable parts and wrap the entire base of the chair with plastic cling wrap. This helps prevent scratches and dings. It also encapsulates the wires so nothing gets unplugged.” I like Karen’s method. It’s simple, and the only out-of-pocket expense is for a roll or two of plastic cling wrap.

Says frequent-flyer Mike, “I’ve found that bubble wrap (which you can buy at an office supply store) works well in protecting my wheelchair from damage. I just take some to the airport with me and then before I turn my wheelchair over to the airline I pad the areas most likely to sustain damage. I also take some tape with me so I can secure the bubble wrap. So far, it works pretty good.”

Other travelers go a bit farther (and spend a bit more money), in their quest to limit wheelchair damage. In fact Gloria even went as far as to build her own transport crate. “I was tired of the airlines damaging my son’s wheelchair, so I had a crate building company build a protective container for transport,” she says. “They built a crate that has four locking caster wheels, handles and a side door with a moveable ramp. All the major airlines have accepted the crate so far, although I do have to make advance arrangements for it. Now the crate comes back beat up but the wheelchair remains undamaged.”

Gloria is on the right track, in fact there is even a company that sells protective containers for wheelchair air transport. The Haseltine Corporation manufactures and sells such protective containers, which are constructed out of rigid molded plastic. There are two models of the Haseltine Flyer, one for folding manual wheelchairs and another for power wheelchairs and scooters.

Model 504-A is designed for folding wheelchairs and consists of a polyethylene container with foam padding and internal straps to hold accessories in place. It is also available with wheels. The larger 504-C model is designed for rigid motorized chairs and scooters. The Haseltine Flyers are priced from $368 to $689, depending on the model.

The down side is that you have to arrange for storage of the container at your destination. Contact your airline in advance for more information on this matter. The Haseltine containers have been tested by several airlines, but so far no airline has purchased any. On the other hand, travelers are starting to realize the advantages of the Haseltine Flyer and so far they are the primary market. We can only hope that the airlines will one day follow suit.

And finally, remember to take a tool kit of basic tools with you when you travel. It’s best to take the bare minimum required to prepare your wheelchair for transport in your carry-on luggage, as others may be confiscated from you at the security checkpoint. Pack a more extensive toll kit in your checked baggage, even duplicating the tools you carry through security. That way, if they get confiscated, you will at least be able to assemble your wheelchair at the other end.

Additionally, a tool kit will enable you to make quick repairs on the road, which will save you time and money. Your tool kit should include items such as a small screwdriver with interchangeable bits, a crescent wrench, a couple of Allen wrenches, a small roll of electrical tape, a few lengths of electrical wire, an assortment of electrical connectors and a variety of nuts, bolts and washers. Your own tool kit will of course depend on your particular equipment. Additionally, if you use a scooter don’t forget to pack a spare key in your emergency tool kit. You never know when you will need it.

Waiting for Your Wheelchair

Under the ACAA, the airlines are required to return assistive devices carried in the cargo bin, as close as possible to the aircraft door. In airline language this is known as gate checking your wheelchair or scooter. You drop it at your departure gate and pick it up at your arrival gate.

And although the airlines are required to gate check some power wheelchairs and scooters upon request; there is one huge exception to the rule. That exception is whenever it is prohibited by federal regulations governing transportation security. So conceivably in times of a high security threat, gate checking assistive deices could be temporarily curtailed. It’s not a huge issue, but it’s something to keep in mind, should the security threat rise.

The ACAA also calls for the timely return of gate checked assistive devices. In fact, the regulations specify that assistive devices get priority over all other baggage. The airlines must make sure that they are the first items to be retrieved from the baggage compartment to ensure their timely return. This means your wheelchair should be waiting at the gate for you when you disembark.

But that’s not always the way it works. I receive a fair number of complaints from travelers who experienced long delays waiting for their gate checked wheelchairs or scooters. In most cases, these people traveled with heavy power wheelchairs. The problem seemed be a product of poor airport design, as the facilities in question didn’t have an elevator near the gate. In some cases, rope winches were used to get assistive devices up to the gate area; however this machinery couldn’t accommodate heavy power wheelchairs. So airline employees had to take the heavier items all the way out the baggage claim area to use that elevator; and then bring them back out to the gate. As you can imagine, this took a fair amount of time.

Is it right? No. Does it happen? Yes. Just be prepared for the possibility. And if you want to see it happen less, then write a letter of complaint to the DOT. And while you’re at it, write a letter to the airline too; and don’t forget to ask for some sort of compensation for your inconvenience.

When Protection Isn’t Enough

Sometimes no matter how hard you try, the inevitable happens. Your wheelchair is damaged in transit. Unfortunately it happens so you do need to be prepared for it. The first thing you should do is learn what the ACAA says about airline liability for damage to assistive devices.

Under the ACAA, US airlines are responsible for all repairs to damaged devices; however if the devices are lost or damaged beyond repair, the airlines are only responsible for the original purchase price. For example, if you paid $3,000 for your wheelchair 10 years ago, but it would cost $5,500 to replace it today, you can only expect to recover the original purchase price ($3,000) if your wheelchair is damaged beyond repair. You are responsible for the additional $2,500 it would cost to replace your wheelchair.

Travelers are cautioned to know both the purchase price and the replacement cost of their assistive devices, and to be aware of the difference between these two figures. If the difference is substantial you may want to carry additional insurance with a high deductible to cover this gap.

Airlines are also required to pay for consequential damages such as wheelchair rentals and unrefundable tickets, tours or deposits.

The ACAA liability limits only apply to flights within the US on US airlines. The liability limits on international flights are covered under the Warsaw Convention. They are set at $9.07/lb for checked baggage and $400 for carry-on baggage. Obviously those limits are woefully inadequate for many high end power wheelchairs and scooters; so it pays to know the value of your equipment before you fly and make sure you have adequate insurance coverage to cover your assistive devices.

It’s also important to remember to report any damage to your wheelchair or scooter immediately. In most cases this means before you leave the airport. Admittedly some internal damage is hard to detect immediately, but it is important to report it as soon as you become aware of it. Even though you may be in the middle of a holiday, you need to take time out to file a claim with the airline if you expect to recover your damages. The airline may deny a claim if they feel it is not filed in a timely manner. Additionally, under the ACAA, airlines are not required to respond to complaints that are more than 45 days old.

Again this seems like a very simple task, but it amazes me how many people don’t understand the importance of timeliness in this matter. For example one lady I talked to at a health fair last year told me about some damage done to her scooter on a recent airline flight. When I inquired as to her definition of recent, she matter-of-factly replied, “About eight months ago. Should I file a claim?” Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident. If you had an automobile accident and you waited eight months to report the damage, do you think your insurance company would pay the claim? Most likely they wouldn’t. And neither will the airlines. Report all damage, (no matter how small it seems) immediately. You can always amend your claim later, if you should find more damage.

Unfortunately, every now and then, a wheelchair or scooter is permanently lost. But how long do you have to wait before your missing wheelchair is officially declared lost? Well Carlton Duke waited seven months while United Airlines strung him along. But that’s way too long.

There are no federal standards that mandate when missing baggage becomes lost forever; however, most airlines consider it permanently lost after it’s been missing for 10 days. So I’d say that’s a good guideline for assistive devices, as well. After that time, tell the airline you’d like your claim settled, and don’t let them string you along. And if necessary, speak to a Complaints Resolution Official (CRO).

Finally, no matter how bad things seem, (even if your wheelchair is returned to you in pieces), don’t panic. I know this is easier said than done, but I would like to illustrate the importance of this point with a story about my friend John. John is a pretty well seasoned traveler, but every now and then life throws him a few curves.

On a recent trip to the Bahamas John’s wheelchair was literally returned to him in pieces. John relates his humbling experience, “First they brought out the frame, then they kept bringing out smaller and smaller pieces,” he says. “I didn’t even know my wheelchair had that many pieces. Actually I didn’t care about the wheelchair, as I travel with my old backup klunker; but I didn’t want to ruin my long-anticipated holiday. I just blew a fuse and started cussing and screaming. I was quite a sight right there in the middle of the airport.

The embarrassing thing was that the baggage handler had my wheelchair back together in about two minutes. Apparently this was standard procedure. I wheeled out with my tail tucked between my legs. On the positive side, I didn’t even think about renting a car there. I figured if they could assemble my wheelchair that quickly, they could do wonders stripping a car.”

And remember, under the ACAA, the airlines must reassemble all assistive devices and return them to the passenger in the condition that they received them. So if they give you your wheelchair in pieces, or with a disconnected battery, don’t let them off the hook. After all, it’s their responsibility to reassemble things.

Loaners

Although your tool kit will allow you to make quick repairs on the road, if you wheelchair is badly damaged you will have to relinquish it while it is being repaired. In the interim you will need an appropriate loaner. But what is an appropriate loaner? That depends on who you ask, as some airline personnel have an interesting definition of appropriate. It’s not that they are trying to pull a fast one on you, it’s just that they really don’t understand the difference between your Quickie and their E&J airport wheelchair.

So here’s where a little patience comes in. Again this is easier said than done, especially if you are tired and cranky. In order to advocate for yourself and to get what you define as an appropriate loaner wheelchair, you need to calmly explain the facts of life to the airline personnel assigned to help you. You may even have to do this more than once, as you’ll probably have to talk to a supervisor or another clerk. No matter how frustrating this is, it’s the only way to get a wheelchair that adequately suits your needs.

If you have a highly specialized chair, you might even do some advance research and find an appropriate rental outlet at your destination (just in case). Whatever happens, keep your temper and remember that the airlines are responsible for providing you with an appropriate loaner chair. In other words, if their E&J won’t suit your needs, the airline has to foot the bill for an appropriate rental. Keep talking till they get it right.

Finally, if you don’t get satisfaction from talking with front line personnel, ask to speak to the CRO. The CRO will help you get the services you are entitled to, including an appropriate loaner chair.

Ship Don’t Schlep

If you’re tired of schlepping luggage around airports, then consider shipping it to and from your destination. A number of luggage forwarding companies offer this service for a premium price; but if you can plan ahead and deal direct with the shipper, you can rack up a substantial savings. In this case the shipper is FedEx, and although they don’t advertise a specific luggage shipping service, you can use FedEx Ground to get your suitcase to and from your destination.

Frequent traveler Carroll Driscoll recently used this service to get her suitcase from New Mexico to Connecticut. Says Carroll, “It took four business days and the cost was about $45. As a wheelchair-traveler I usually tip about $10 for a person to push me from the plane to the baggage carousel and retrieve my luggage for me. So, for a little extra money, I don’t have to worry about it being lost.”

FedEx recommends that luggage be packed inside a cardboard box or a medium FedEx bag, as their airbill pouches do not stick well to fabric. Each piece must weigh under 70 pounds and must not exceed 109 inches in length and 165 inches in length plus girth. FedEx will pick it up at your house if you have a FedEx account; otherwise you need to drop it off at their office. The five-day ground service is the most economical, with a 40 pound suitcase being shipped from California to New York costing $36 for delivery to a business and $44 for delivery to a residence.

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