Experiencing long sedentary travels with a nasty case of jetlag can be arduous for both young and middle-aged passengers. So just imagine the effect it would take on elder passengers with vulnerability to germs on flight from other passengers and a weaker immune system?

One of the questions that arise is, ‘Is my grandmother or grandfather fit to travel?’ A similar version, ‘Is my grandmother or grandfather allowed to fly for long flights?’ also comes up. Firstly, there is no specific age limit on travelling by plane. Secondly, normal passengers, airline staff, check-in staff and security personnel are not fit to judge your elder citizen’s health.

You may have come across families who are commenting proudly that their senior relatives well over 70 years of age have travelled long distances independently and without support. Well good for them! But this is not a good time to take this as a challenge to show others that your family member is equally capable. Some may not admit that their seniors are adamant to travel even when health issues are present. Take into consideration the following things before you actually embark on a long-haul flight:

  • Cognitive ability (Suffering from Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease)
  • Situational awareness (Can he/she travel alone, deal with people, not get panicked easily, navigating easily through new places etc.)
  • Health issues (Prior heart attacks, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, high/low blood pressure, problems related to breathing etc.)
  • Ambulation (By self or dependent on others)

Consult your physician and get a letter for prescribed medicines which the elder person usually takes and a letter showing the patient being ‘fit for travel’. This will serve as a backup to ensure your flight process is uninterrupted by someone who will not be convinced they are healthy enough to board a plane. As far as medication is concerned, take days’ worth of it in your checked baggage or handbag, so that you don’t have to reach the overhead bin and search for it in your heavy luggage. This will also help you if the destination does not provide the same medicines.

Now that your grandmother/grandfather is medically fit to board a plane, it is time for booking. Put a young family member to complete the process. Make sure to check the suitable disability option for the flight and to pick an aisle seat (for easy exit to lavatory and getting up to stretch to prevent DVT). If you are wondering whether business class/first class helps in serving elder passengers better? It doesn’t. There is no difference in service. Unless in a long-haul flight, you want the passenger to sleep comfortably, then business class provides seats with multiple reclining modes which also turn into flat-beds.

Next, ask for wheelchair facility since long walks can be inevitable at the airport from its entrance to the plane’s gate. Ask the gate agent for this facility when you arrive, since every airline offers it nowadays. Alternatively, you can call for electronic carts to cover distances faster if you can afford it.

Elderly passengers can quickly go through security clearance by going through a separate TSA line. It is advised to inform the officers of any metal related support like back brace so that it doesn’t trigger metal detectors. If questioned about medicines, you can show them the letter and prescription from the doctor.

After a long flight process, you and your elder passenger can plan for the journey. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t pack too many places in your itinerary. Set frequent rest times as they are not as energetic as they used to be. Take things slowly so that you and your senior family member can enjoy the trip without any troubles.