Advice For Elderly Travelers And Their Families

5:36 PM, May 6, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- The death of an 83-year-old grandma after she wandered away from Reagan National is horrible reminder to all of us about the risks of flying the elderly through the complicated maze at the world's airports.

There is a federal law -- the Air Carrier Access Act -- that gives some rights to travelers with physical or mental disabilities including wheelchairs and portable oxygen concentrators, But you may need more help to travel safely.

Experts say you should RESEARCH... BOOK ... and request things like early boarding and a wheelchair or an electric cart and request them early and repeatedly.

Some airlines, including American, have special programs like Five Star Service. For $175 domestically, they say they will provide an escort to shepard you from the curb to the gate, from one flight to the next, and then from the gate to the curb at the end of your flight.

You can also negotiate for your loved ones or another caretaker to take you all the way out to the gate, and pick you up too. Ask if that's possible before you book.

There are private companies like Royal Airport Concierge that will meet you and take you or your loved one through security for a fee.

But some experts say there is nothing better than being there. "If it were me," says USA Today travel expert Ben Mutzabaugh, I might have flown to Barbados to fetch grandma and bring her back."

"You have to assume the system may break down," says the AAA's John Townsend. "And then the big question is what happens when the system doesn't work as it's supposed to."

Lots of airlines have special programs -- and special fees -- for unaccompanied children. Not many have spent as much time thinking about unaccompanied seniors. But this tragedy could change that.

One big piece of advice from the experts if you need help: ask for it.

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