Retirement usually means more time on our hands. What better way to spend it than flying to exotic destinations or visiting loved ones?
For older adults, the first-ever flight can be memorable – if you have taken stock of your health needs and have prepared for untoward situations.
For seniors, traveling stress-free comes down to keeping the right documents handy, showing up before time, and considering availing senior care facilities in flights and airports.
So, whether you are flying to Bengaluru to meet your daughter and family, or you’re booking flight tickets to Delhi on the way to Manali this summer, keep these instructions for airport and flights in mind, and you'll be good to go.
Flight Ticket Concessions for Senior Citizens
Airlines like Air India give senior citizens a 50% discount on the basic fare on selected bookings in Economy class. You need a valid photo ID like Voter’s ID card, driving license or passport. Other airlines also give passengers above 60 years of age special discounts. Look into these before you book your tickets.
Pro tip: If you want that window seat view or want an aisle seat so you can visit the bathroom and avoid disturbing your neighbors, consider pre-selecting your seat.
Pre-boarding Tips for Seniors
1. Keep Your Documents Handy
Before leaving your home, make sure you have tickets, ID proof, and all the documents you need. If your tickets are on the smartphone, you need to charge it ahead of time. Keep all flight documents in one pouch or bag with easy-to-open compartments; you should be able to easily access them when needed. You don't want to get stuck rummaging through your bag.
2. Enquire about Airport Facilities for Seniors
Call the airport or the airline ahead of time to know what facilities they provide for senior citizens.
- These can include comfortable seats, seating for passengers with disabilities, lavatory use, and storage for senior mobility aids like wheelchairs or walking sticks.
- Check if you can reserve a wheelchair in advance. If you need to carry medical equipment inside the flight, check if you need to carry medical certificates or forms for the same.
- Starting August 2019, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has passed directives to both domestic carriers and international airlines to help senior passengers, first-time passengers, and others with special needs.
For instance, senior citizens can avail automated buggies as a free service to travel to boarding gates that are beyond reasonable walking distance. You can also get small trolleys to carry your hand baggage after the security check, up to the boarding gate. The IGI airport at New Delhi has recently opened special immigration clearance counters at Terminal-3 for senior citizens and women.
You also want to clearly have a general layout of the airport and the check-in procedure (security check, boarding area, baggage counter, etc.) By knowing where you need to go and what you need to do, you can save significant time and make boarding hassle-free.
3. Arrive Well in Time
The last thing you want is to be in a rush to get through the procedures and find your flight terminal. It is advised to arrive at the airport one and a half hours before your boarding time. There might be a chance that your flight could get delayed, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
4. Reserve a Wheelchair
Airports are vast, and you may find it difficult to navigate crowded areas or to walk long distances. To make things easier, airports provide wheelchairs for free and even an attendant for an additional cost. The chaperone will take you wherever you need to go and accompany you throughout your airport experience.
5. Free Lounge Access with Debit or Credit Cards
Airport lounges are the utmost in hospitality and comfort for passengers who need to wait for hours for their next flight. Lounge access can be expensive, though, but you can use certain bank debit cards or credit cards that provide free access to airport lounges.
6. Understand the Different Types of Baggage and Their Rules
There are three types of baggage. Here is a short breakdown of each.
- Checked Baggage: This type of baggage is stored in the hold of the aircraft and cannot be accessed during the flight. The restrictions on what can be carried and the weight of checked baggage is limited compared to carry-on and personal baggage. Depending on the airline, checked baggage can be bought at the airport prior to your flight, or the price can be included in your original ticket cost.
- Carry-on Baggage: This type of baggage is carried along with the passenger and is stored in the cabin of the aircraft. There are many restrictions on what items can be carried and the allowed weight is less than that of checked baggage.
- Personal Items: These are small baggage items like handbags or laptops. It has the same restrictions as carry-on baggage, except it should be much smaller. Not every airline allows you to keep your items with you and may request you to store it in your carry-on bag.
Pro tip: Weigh your flight baggage at home and put large, visible name tags and some form of identity (tie a coloured ribbon) to easily recognize your suitcase. This will make things easier while boarding and gathering your luggage at arrival.
Flight Boarding Tips for Senior Citizens
1. Keep Track of Your Flight Status
Changes in flight schedules can happen quite often. To avoid the last-minute rush or being stranded at the airport, keep track of your flight status.
2. Stay Hydrated
Don't get caught up and forget to drink enough water. Ask your flight attendant for water whenever you need it.
3. Pay Attention to Flight Safety Protocols
Before take-off, the cabin crew will take you through some protocols. These include cabin rules, how to fasten your seatbelt, as well as emergency procedures. If you feel anxious in any way or need assistance in understanding rules, ask for help – the cabin crew has been trained to help you.
4. Carry Remedies for Ear Pain
Take-off and landing may cause pain or discomfort in your ears due to the change in cabin air pressure. By using painkillers before take-off, taking deep breaths, having a throat lozenge or sucking on hard candy, you can almost completely avoid the pain. Chewing on a gum also works, but that can leave your throat dry.
Whether you are traveling alone or with your loved ones, you can avoid a lot of trouble and enjoy your trip a lot more by following these simple first-time flight tips. Go ahead, enjoy your pehli udaan!