Now Children with Disabilities Get Their Own Airline TravelChair

Jan 08, 2014


The travel industry has made some strides in terms of accessibility for people with disabilities. In fact, many travel agencies are starting to specialize in providing packages for the non-traditional traveler, because the market has become quite lucrative. Despite all this, though, the travel industry still has a long way to go. Over the last few years, several airlines have been subject to lawsuits arising from the mishandling of wheelchairs and other devices upon which people with disabilities depend—mishandling which has resulted in broken devices that can cost thousands to repair.

A Child with Disabilities Is Secured Into the TravelChair

Another problem people with disabilities face in travel is the issue of the travel itself. In general, the seats on airlines are not designed to provide proper posture or foot support for the traveler with a disability. This becomes a particular issue for children who have severe disabilities—airline seats aren’t shaped for children to begin with, which only exacerbates the problem for a child with a disability.

Front View of the TravelChair for Children with Disabilities

This is all about to change, however. The UK-based charity design and manufacture corporation MERU has unveiled a new TravelChair specifically updated and designed for the airline traveler from 3 to 11 years of age. The chair is an upgrade on a previous model and is adjustable to each user to ensure maximum support and comfort no matter how long the flight is. The chair weighs about 6kg (just over 13 lbs.) and can even fold in half to fit into an overhead compartment.

A Child with Disabilities and Her Mom Are Introduced to the TravelChair

The first airline signed on to use the new TravelChair is Virgin Atlantic. Says Geraldine Lundy, the passengers accessibility advisor to Virgin Atlantic, “We’ve used the previous version of the TravelChair for many years to fly hundreds of children with disabilities around the world, and we are really pleased to know that we will enable many more children with disabilities to travel safely and comfortably to wherever we fly.

A Little Girl Looks Happy and Comfortable in the TravelChair

Of the project itself, Gilly Golesworthy of MERU says that they are “Working towards FAA approval which is very exciting and will open up a whole new world of possibilities for families with disabled children.”

A Side View of the Travel Chair for Children with Disabilities

Golesworthy says that Boeing and Airbus both want to display TravelChairs in their visitor centers, so they can be seen by over 300,000 travelers every year, a great opportunity to increase the device’s visibility.

In any case, it appears the TravelChair is another great option for children with disabilities who travel. Watch how it works, and let us know what you think!


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About the author

Jill Liphart
Jill Liphart

Jill is a writer, blogger, social media and Internet marketer, work-at-home, single mom of 5. She provides news about issues that are important to people with disabilities, their loved ones, disability advocates and their friends.

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  1. Kelly
    January 08, 2014

    my husband could use something like this when he flies

  2. Kristin
    January 09, 2014

    How excellent! We do very little air travel because it is just so difficult. This seat would revolutionize the whole experience. I hope it is adopted in the states (and I hope they go with a weight/height qualification rather than just age.)

  3. Alex
    January 10, 2014

    Are they available to hire

    • January 13, 2014

      Hi, Alex! According to this page, they are available for hire, but at this point, they can only be used on United Kingdom-registered airlines. We don’t know when, if ever, US and other airline companies will have the TravelChair for use by passengers. We’ll let you know if we hear anything. Thanks for following our blog!

  4. clare
    January 10, 2014

    wouldnt you have to use the window seat, otherwise people would be trying to get by to the loo etc, just sayng lol

    • January 13, 2014

      Hi, Clare! Since you’re in the UK, you’ll be able to find out for yourself! At this point, the TravelChair is only available for hire on UK-registered airlines. We’d hope the airlines would place the seat in the best possible spot for the parent and child to avoid that situation. If you get the opportunity to try it out, please let us know how it goes! We appreciate your following our blog!

  5. Tammy
    January 11, 2014

    I hope they make one for disabled adults as well as children.. THAT would be helpful too

  6. Jonna Malone
    January 15, 2014

    This is magnificent! this should be a standard piece of equipment for every single airline, for children and adults! here’s to waiting for that day! When you say it is currently available for hire, does it mean that the person travelling will be carrying the cost, or the airline?

    • January 16, 2014

      Hi, Jonna! We checked again, and it seems we were misinformed. The airlines currently offering the TravelChair do not charge for its use. Here’s a portion of the information provided by Virgin Airlines: We’ve been using an earlier version of the TravelChair for many years with fantastic feedback from cabin crew and parents. Parents simply advise us of their need to use the TravelChair when making the booking to ensure it is on board for both outbound and inbound flights—all at no extra charge. We’re hoping more airlines take notice and make them available. Thanks for your comment!

  7. tanya malone
    January 16, 2014

    Great to see a change in travel but yet again further cost to families with special needs children . so we pay for a regular seat on flught then pay a further fee how is this not discrimination towards kids with extra needs .

    • January 16, 2014

      Hi, Tonya! You’ll be happy to know we were misinformed. The airlines currently offering the TravelChair do not charge for its use. According to Virgin Airlines: We’ve been using an earlier version of the TravelChair for many years with fantastic feedback from cabin crew and parents. Parents simply advise us of their need to use the TravelChair when making the booking to ensure it is on board for both outbound and inbound flights—all at no extra charge. Let’s hope other airlines climb on board with the TravelChair! Thanks for following our blog!

  8. Cyndie
    January 16, 2014

    I think these are a great idea but should not have an “age” restriction! There are many adults that don’t weigh much and could n
    Benefit from the safety of the seats designed here!!!

  9. Jeanne V.
    January 19, 2014

    Great, but we have bought our own car seats before that were FAA approved and fit the special needs of our son. What needs to happen – someone coming up with a way the wheel the individual right onto the plane and tied downs for chair (just like in a vehicle). Our son was getting too big to carry onto a cramped plane and then have to take apart wheelchair to put in luggage hold…

    • January 20, 2014

      Hi, Jeanne! Thanks for your comment. Because airline seating is highly regulated and must pass many rigorous crash tests, it’s not likely an individual’s wheelchair will ever be used as seating on a plane. There’s one company that’s come up with a solution to improve the experience of passengers in wheelchairs. It’s called the Air Access seat, and the article got a lot of positive feedback from our readers. We all hope the airlines take notice soon. Check it out!

  10. pam
    January 19, 2014

    This is great ! Need to make for older children.

  11. Heather
    January 23, 2014

    Is it possible to view and perhaps have a personal demonstration of this chair? Although it says it is for a child, my son of 23 is only 50 kg, and from the chair’s appearance, it looks as if he would fit in to it.

    However, due to his total inability to stand or walk, it is still extremely difficult to sit him in any aircraft seat, and though we have flown quite a bit, it is really a nightmare getting in and out of the seat. Are there any other devices available to make this less traumatic? Currently, his is physically lifted by 2 of the airport disability assistance team who do their best, but invariably it requires further handling to position him correctly.

    • January 23, 2014

      Hi, Heather! Right now, as far as we know, only two airlines are offering the TravelChair, Virgin and Monarch, and both are based in the United Kingdom. Click here for a demonstration of the chair. The Air Access chair has been designed to make entry and exit onto an aircraft much less difficult and stressful for passengers who use wheelchairs, but so far none of the airlines has made it available on their planes, though we’re not sure why. Thanks for following our blog!

  12. Alem
    April 12, 2014

    Hi My name is Alem Tefera I am from Ethiopia I am working with disabled no this kind of technology in Ethiopia it is amazing be strong I learn from you .
    Many thanks

    • April 14, 2014

      Hi, Alem! We’re glad our articles are helping in your work with people with disabilities. Perhaps you can help to bring new assistive technologies to Ethiopia. We wish you the best. Thanks for following our blog!

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