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Thread: Powerchair problems en route to Australia

  1. #1
    Biscuitgazer
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    Powerchair problems en route to Australia

    I went to Australia with my mom and took my powerchair. It was brilliant to have it there and I used it more than I do here in Lincolnshire. BUT it did not have a good journey there or back! I went on Air China via Beijing and I called them before flying to ask about the powerchair, because I also have a transit chair that I'd initially booked on the flight. They said the powerchair would be fine, so I changed the booking. I powered to the door of the plane, then they took the chair to go in the hold. No luggage labels, just a query how to disconnect the power, then they were off to the hold with it. When we got to Beijing for our stopover, they told me my battery (a standard pair of AGMs in their box) had travelled with the crew, and they gave me that 12kg battery to carry with me during my stopover. But they did not give me my chair, they pushed me in an airport chair to the transit lounge and left me there - without any wheelchair - for the duration of my stopover. Yay.

    When my mom and I finally arrived in Sydney we discovered that my powerchair had been torn limb from limb and parts were scattered all around. The positioning nuts had been taken off the armrests and lost, the seatbelt removed, the seat leather had a hole punctured in it, one arm was dangling limply, one end plug was gone from the base and the rubber joystick cover was unstuck. Worst of all, the battery indicator light no longer worked.

    The airline paid their maximum compensation of $400 US, which changed into Australian dollars and then into Pounds is a bit short of what I bought the chair for second hand.

    It sounds like that should be the end of that story, an airline mess-up sorted. But then I had to come home with my battery! I was wise to the airline and put the joystick rubber and the VSR controller with its armrest into my luggage this time, as well as making sure my chair was checked in and the battery given to me from the beginning. Well, there was no more damage to the chair, but the battery was not very easy to get home.

    Security in Beijing decided it was a lithium battery, which my Cantonese was somehow just not up to correcting them about. They wanted a certificate of power from the airline, which the airline has never heard of. I though if worse comes to the worst I could unscrew the box and they could confiscate the batteries in it, but no, that would be a fire hazard...it took us 5 hours to get through that security check. Luckily our stopover was about 8 hours.

    So all I can say is, be prepared to get a few grey hairs travelling with a battery, be prepared for damage to your chair, and stash any part you really need out of harm's way in your suitcase.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
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    I've travelled to the US a few times with a powerchair and thankfully haven't experienced any problems. When booking the assistance we went through the make and model of chair, type of battery etc. When checking in we went through the same information but I had it all prepared beforehand, all neatly documented.

    Regarding the 400 USD compensation for damage I believe you have been unfairly treated. Under the Montreal Convention the maximum liability is 1,331 SDR (Special Drawing Rights) which is about 1,540 USD. Airlines in the US and Canada have no such maximum regarding mobility equipment.

    I'm not sure whether your flight would have been covered by the Montreal Convention or the older Warsaw Convention. As the EU, China and Australia are all signatories of the Montreal Convention I think it probably was. It's always worth checking before flying.

    I had a lost baggage claim, a suitcase, with Air Canada and they offered very little initially. However, having pushed them very hard and reminded them of the various liabilities they massively increased their compensation.

    Airlines will pay out as little as possible if they can and will state liability limits which are totally false.
    No single thing can define me; not my work, not my politics, not my hobbies, not my vices and not my disability. I'm way more complex than that!

  3. #3
    Oh no! I'm booked to travel with my powerchair in 3 weeks. I don't even know how to take the baterry off! They better bloody leave the chair as they find it!!

  4. #4
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    You can purchase an Airsafe Power Inhibit Plug which most airlines approve as a way to immobilise a powerchair. They aren't very expensive, about £10 to £15. Saves taking the batteries out etc
    No single thing can define me; not my work, not my politics, not my hobbies, not my vices and not my disability. I'm way more complex than that!

  5. #5

  6. #6
    Fine for those who have a 3 pin charging socket but mine has a 2 pin charging socket and uses a long kettle lead straight to the mains.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Sky's Avatar
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    I have an RNet controller that has a lock on it. I just hold down the power button until it bleeps, then push the joystick forward for a couple of seconds, then back for a couple of seconds.

    Silly question I suppose if they sell keys like this.

    My indoor chair won't lock, but I assumed that was because it was only meant for indoors.

  8. #8
    Senior Member CrippledLassie's Avatar
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    Whether it's a manual or powerchair you may wish to insure it separately. It's such a common issue to have the chair inadvertently damaged by air travel. I use a powerchair but took an old manual chair that lives in my shed to New York. I had someone with me the whole time so I could be pushed. The chair arrived damaged at JFK as expected and it cost me over £100 to replace the buckled brake when I got home. However BA let my chair fly First Class in the cabin storage on the way home!
    They told me "It's obvious that you need the chair". Shame we couldn't fly First class but we did get a free upgrade.

    I've only flown out of the UK once in my entire life even though I'm in my 40s! I have flown within the UK loads of times.
    Last edited by CrippledLassie; 03-22-2017 at 09:51 PM.
    Just call me Rasy

  9. #9
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    I tend to hire a chair when flying, taking out the necessary insurance, just in case. I've never had a powerchair damaged but my old manual was damaged flying United in to Las Vegas. It was damaged again the following year, flying United into Las Vegas.
    No single thing can define me; not my work, not my politics, not my hobbies, not my vices and not my disability. I'm way more complex than that!

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