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Air Travel with Rheumatoid Arthritis: How to Make It Easier

Flying with RA is all about being prepared.

By Carol Eustice

Medically Reviewed by Alexa Meara, MD

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Just because you can manage without extra help when you fly doesn’t mean you should opt against assistance.
Just because you can manage without extra help when you fly doesn’t mean you should opt against assistance.
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Air travel can be pleasurable or necessary, but either way, it's often daunting for people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). One could argue that this has always been the case to some extent, but now more than ever, in this age of heightened security and airline cutbacks, flying with RA presents unique challenges. Preparation is absolutely key to having an enjoyable, low-stress air travel experience.

Stay Current With Security Rules

Let’s begin by tackling what seems to worry people the most: getting through the security checkpoint. Every person who is traveling must go through the security checkpoint at the airport. First and foremost, know the rules set by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Don’t be that person who leaves for the airport on a wing and a prayer hoping that it all goes smoothly, but with no knowledge of the most current rules and regulations. Here's a checklist of what to do to prepare:

After you have combed through the information on the TSA website, you may still have questions or concerns. If you need further help, the TSA recommends these resources:

TSA CaresThis is a toll-free helpline (855-787-2227) to assist travelers who are disabled or who have medical conditions. Call at least 72 hours ahead of travel for information about what to expect during screening. The TSA Cares line is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.–11 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) and 9 a.m.–8 p.m. EST on weekends and holidays.

TSA Contact CenterCall 866-289-9673 to get the answer to general questions about TSA security, or send an email to . You can also use social media to ask questions; go to @AskTSA on Twitter or send a question to the TSA using Facebook Messenger.

Passenger SupportThis service is for people who require special accommodations or who are concerned about the airport security screening process. You may ask a TSA officer for a passenger support specialist to assist you.

Choose the Best Flight to Accommodate Your Needs

Book your flight as early as you can. While ticket price is often the primary consideration, people with RA have other things to consider as well. Consider your needs and what will be easiest for you. Do you prefer a nonstop flight so you can avoid the potential complications that come with connecting flights? Can you manage a carry-on bag, or do you need to check your bag? Do you need to bring and use mobility aids on the airplane? Do you prefer a window or aisle seat? Do you need to request wheelchair assistance to navigate through the airport? Does the airport you will be using have jetways — or jet bridges, as they're also called — or do they use stairs to board and deplane? Does the airport offer curb side check-in?

Air Travel Tips From a Passenger Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis

Frequent-flyer Karol Ruth Silverstein is a screenwriter and children's book author based in West Hollywood, California, who was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at age 13. Here are her answers to some key questions about air travel for someone with rheumatoid arthritis:

Q: What is the most difficult part of air travel for someone with rheumatoid arthritis?

A: Just the overall ordeal of it. I experience a certain amount of logistical anxiety when I fly. Will my ride get me in time? Will the traffic make us late to the airport? Will there be a skycap available curbside to take my bag and call a wheelchair? Will the wheelchair assistant come and get me through security in time? Will someone at the gate help me board? There’s a certain relief when I’m finally seated on the plane, but then the anxiety starts up again upon landing. A long day of traveling can be exhausting — and can make me stiff and sore — but the anxiety is the most draining aspect.

Q: Have you ever had a request for assistance turn out to be a failure? 

A:There was one airline I flew a few times that didn’t have curb side check-in, which is difficult for me to manage (I use crutches and am unable to roll my bag inside the airport). They said to call when I was approximately five minutes away from the airport and that someone would come out and meet me. It never worked very smoothly and added to my already significant anxiety.

Q: What advice can you offer to someone with rheumatoid arthritis who is traveling by air? 

A: Don’t be a hero. Just because youcanmanage without the extra help doesn’t mean you should. Travel is exhausting. Take the help where available and save your energy for the fun you have planned at your destination.

The Takeaway on RA and Air Travel

RA can make travel a different experience than it is for people without the disease. Acknowledge that you have needs, identify those needs, and make provisions so that all of your needs are addressed. We all would like to toss a few things in a suitcase, purchase a ticket at a great price, and go. But rheumatoid arthritis forces us to plan for accessibility and comfort. That’s not a bad thing — it's a necessary thing.






Video: How to Travel with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) with Dr Grace Wright and Maria

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Date: 07.12.2018, 11:40 / Views: 85171