Traveling with a Prosthetic Limb – Amputee Travel Tips
Listed below are some helpful traveling tips for amputees when traveling via air.
Booking your Flight
- If available, reserve bulkhead seating (the first row in coach / general seating), or choose airlines that offer more legroom (JetBlue, Virgin America, Delta and others offer seating options with extra legroom; additional fees may apply).
- If you’ve already purchased a ticket for a different seat, contact the airline prior to the day of your flight to see if your seat can be moved (explain your situation – they may be able to offer to switch your seat at no cost).
- If these rows are completely unavailable, request an aisle seat so that you can at least stretch out a bit more in the open space.
What to Do Before Your Trip
- Check Your Prosthesis – You wouldn’t think of getting in your car and starting a long trip without first getting the car serviced and being certain that it’s in good operating condition. Why do less with your prosthesis?
- Socket – Clean the socket with a mild, non-perfumed soap, using a washcloth. Allow it to air-dry or gently dry it with a soft cloth. Avoid using alcohol or commercial cleaners. If the prosthesis has a removable liner, take it out and check for small tears or glue separations at the seams. If you use a silicone suspension system, clean and inspect it in the same way.
- Suspension – Inspect Velcro for frayed edges or weakness in grip. If it has picked up lint, use a brush to remove foreign particles. If your limb relies on a strap to secure it, check for signs of wear or fraying. Also check to see that the rivets holding it to the prosthesis are tight. Check loops or rings for indications of wear, rust or loose stitching.
- Cover – Check for tears or loose glued areas. Since corrosive salt air and the sun’s ultraviolet rays can damage covers, depending on where you travel, you might want to bring along prosthetic skin.
- General Maintenance – Check a lower-extremity prosthesis for looseness at the knee and foot. Listen for odd sounds that might indicate a worn or broken component. If you use an upper-extremity prosthesis, check for wear in the cable and harness.
Before you arrive at the Airport
- Check your prosthesis thoroughly to make sure it is in good shape, especially if you will be out of town for more than a few days. If you need to schedule an appointment with your prosthetist, you’ll want to be sure you have plenty of time for any adjustments before your trip.
- Clean your socket and liner thoroughly (where applicable) to avoid any irritation during a long flight.
Extra Things to Pack
- Extra prosthetic socks
- Extra socket liner
- Duct and filament tape to repair strap or buckle breaks
- Antibacterial cream for abrasions from overuse
- Screwdriver with interchangeable bits
- Spare suction valve
- Plastic bags to protect your prosthesis if you wear it around water or sand
- Phone numbers of certified prosthetists and prosthetic facilities in the area in which you are vacationing (you can get these by calling Amputee Coalition).
Navigating Security / TSA
Upon entering the security line, be sure to inform TSA officials of your prosthetic limb, as you will likely go through a slightly different screening process. According to the TSA.gov website, “Passengers with prostheses can be screened using imaging technology, metal detector, or a thorough patdown.”
Prosthetic limbs are subject to additional security screening by the TSA, but they do not need to be removed. The TSA official may request to see your full prosthesis, and may also scan the prosthesis for explosive material. You have the right to request a private screening if you wish. See http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/pat-downs for more information.
During the Flight
Long-distance flights (4 hours and longer) can increase a person’s risk for blood clots, due to the extended amount of time spent sitting in one position, especially in a small space. For amputees, especially those with diabetes or other related medical conditions, the risk can be even higher.
To reduce your risk of a blood clot, look for seating with extra legroom (ie: bulkhead rows) and/or try to move around a bit during the flight by walking up the aisle or stretching out regularly in your seat.