New travel chair for disabled children gains traction in airline industry

December 5, 2012

Ambiance, Services

Meru Travel Chair main 150x150 New travel chair for disabled children gains traction in airline industryAbout a year ago, a friend of mine lamented that her young daughter, who is severely disabled, cannot travel by air because of the lack of postural and foot support in aircraft seats.

So many parents and guardians of children with moderate or severe disabilities share my friend’s frustrations. I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s high time the industry gave these parents more options.

Now it can. UK-based charity MERU, which designs and manufactures specialised equipment for children and young people with disabilities, has launched a new and improved TravelChair for aircraft. The TravelChair offers various adjustable features to ensure that disabled children between the ages of 3 to 11 years (depending on weight and height) are supported and comfortable, even on long-haul flights.

MERU TravelChair Product shot CAA badge 72dpi 253x300 New travel chair for disabled children gains traction in airline industryVirgin Atlantic recently became the first airline to purchase the latest version of the TravelChair, which weighs about 6kg, and folds in half to fit into an overhead bin. Geraldine Lundy, Virgin Atlantic’s passengers accessibility adviser, says: “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.”

Needless to say, it would be wonderful to see other carriers follow Virgin Atlantic’s lead. MERU TravelChair sales & marketing manager Gilly Golesworthy reports that the charity is “working towards FAA approval which is very exciting and will open up a whole new world of possibilities for families with disabled children”.

She says Boeing is also very keen to display a TravelChair in its visitor centre in Seattle as it attracts over 280,000 visitors annually, and Airbus wants to display a TravelChair too, “both of which are fantastic opportunities” to get the word out.

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About Mary Kirby

Editor in Chief - APEX Media Platform | Previously Senior Editor at Flight International where she led the magazine's coverage of in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) and aircraft interiors | Former proprietor of the highly-regarded Runway Girl blog, which focused on the passenger experience | Regularly speaks at industry conferences about airborne communications, ancillary revenue opportunities for airlines and social media | You can connect with Mary on Twitter, LinkedIn

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9 Responses to “New travel chair for disabled children gains traction in airline industry”

  1. Paula Nestor Says:

    I am glad this will enable a lot of families to access airplane travel, but “…ages 3 to 11. ” My son is 13 and had a really hard time flying this summer because it is very uncomfortable for him to sit in an airplane seat. Also his powerchair gets messed up in the cargo bay every time we fly. If buses can accomodate wheelchairs with tie-downs when will airplanes?

    Reply

    • Terry Babineau Says:

      I agree with Paula Nestor. This is a great innovation for young travelers but what about teenagers and adults? I am a disabled adult and use a power wheelchair to get around. Travel by air is extremely difficult, resulting in transferring from my wheelchair to an aisle accessible chair and then into a very uncomfortable airplane seat (at least for me). Then the reverse once we arrive at our destination. My question is, “When will the airline industry move into the present (2013) and catch up to today’s technology?” Buses, cars and trains can now accommodate wheelchairs with tie-downs. When will airlines allow patrons to travel with dignity and remain in their wheelchair for comfort and ease of travel? Air travel is stressful enough without all this added worry.

      Most airline employees have been very helpful with the transfers, etc., but they all agree it is time for change.

      Reply

      • Mary Kirby Says:

        I plan to run a feature very soon about how the aviation industry is – finally! – starting to pay attention to the needs of people with reduced mobility. Thanks to everyone for your comments and input. Change is afoot, though Lord knows it has taken far too long.

        Reply

        • Terry Babineau Says:

          Thank you Mary Kirby! The airline industry is a very rigid industry and does not accept changes quickly. I certainly can understand the importance of making sure that an airplane is structurally sound, and seats don’t move, etc., to make it as safe as possible for all involved, crew and passengers. But certainly they can design the new planes to allow the entry of a wheelchair and place it in a spot where it can be tied down, whether it is a special door that is used for the plane to a special area, whether it is in the front or in the back doesn’t really matter. A couple of my friends are starting to get very tired of all the BS that comes from the airline industry in regards to helping people in wheelchairs travel on airplanes. I for one will be anxious to read your feature. If your article could include the names of some people and their position in the industry, we will certainly be writing letters trying to lobby them for a change. I plan on sending letters to our government officials here in Canada as well as trying to find out who in the industry I can contact. I will also be writing letters to the MDA, CPA, and ADA for help in this. I do not believe change will happen until there is a large demand from it from the disabled community. Unfortunately, many are very meek and do not want to “make waves” or “rock the boat” so they do not launch any complaints.

          I have Muscular Dystrophy and have no use of my legs or arms. For me to travel requires people to lift and transfer me from my wheelchair and into an accessible aisle chair and then lift me again into the airplane seat. This can be very dangerous to both me and to the ones helping. I am always afraid of someone hurting their back or in my situation, dropping me on the floor. This has not happened to me yet, but it did happen to one of my friends disembarking a plane in the Toronto airport.

          I am sure that if Pres. Obama’s wife or mother required a wheelchair and needed to be lifted to get onto a plane in the manner that I do, he would seriously lobby the airline industry to make changes.

          Reply

  2. Kathy Keehner Says:

    I am so happy about this but I wish I could take my powerchair on aircraft, also. I cannot get up out of an airline seat at all. I am dead weight if someone tries to help me up..it is awful and embarrassing. So, I think I will never be able to fly again!

    Reply

  3. Elizabeth Dallmann Says:

    Oh this would be wonderful. I have not flown with my daughter with moderate disabilities since 2002. We actually drove from California to Michigan and back because she needs specific support and her car seat isn’t FAA approved (only one type is, but has no foot support). I look forward to being able to fly with her again.

    Reply

  4. Andy Says:

    Good info here, but do not blame the airlines for the delay… it is the FAA. Airplane seats have to be designed to withstand a crash landing and need to meet certain ‘g’ tolerances. An airline chair, for example, needs to withstand a 16 g load! And the seat has to be light enough so that a couple hundred of them do not weigh down the airplane so much that fewer passengers could be carried (which would increase ticket prices), or less cargo carried (which would increase ticket prices) or more fuel would be used during the flight (which would … you guessed it … increase ticket prices).
    The reason a person can use a wheelchair in a bus, is because the crash forces in a bus are not the same as in an airplane. If a wheelchair was manufactured that could be certificated to FAA standards, now you have the beginning of an argument! Of course, the width of the aisle would have to be taken into consideration along with the removal of a traditional seat when that space would be needed for a WC passenger…

    Reply

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