Air Travel With Broken Bones

Whether you're wearing a small cast or relying on crutches, nursing broken bones can complicate air travel. Depending on your injury, you may need to make special travel arrangements to accommodate a large cast or inform the airline that you're using crutches. Knowing what to expect at the airport and in the air can help your trip go smoothly.

Airlines — not the TSA — provide wheelchairs when they see fit. (Image: 4774344sean/iStock/Getty Images)

Accommodating a Cast

When you book your flight, tell your airline that you have a cast, crutches or wheelchair, in case the airline needs to make special arrangement for you. If your leg is in a cast, make sure you can bend it to sit in an average airplane seat; otherwise, inform your airline that you'll need a special seat to accommodate a cast that doesn't allow you to bend your knee.

Wheelchairs

If you're temporarily in a wheelchair because of your broken bones, tell your airline so it can accommodate your chair. If you use crutches but need to move around the airport faster, your airline may be able to arrange for you to have a wheelchair in the airport, both before your flight and after you land. During airport screening, airport authorities may perform a patdown procedure if you're unable to stand and pass through the metal detector.

Storing Crutches

Most airlines allow you to take crutches onto an airplane, without counting them as a carry-on item. This means you can usually take one small suitcase and a personal item such as a purse or briefcase, as long as they'll fit in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you, in addition to your crutches. During the security screening at the airport, your crutches will undergo an X-ray screening or, if they're too big, receive a thorough inspection from airport security. On the flight, you'll need to store the crutches in the overhead bin.

Doctor's Note

Some airlines, such as American Airlines, require a doctor's statement if you're traveling within three days of breaking or fracturing a bone. Providing a doctor's note that you're fit for travel assures the airline that air travel won't exacerbate your injury. If you require medication for your condition or to alleviate pain from your broken bones, you'll need to provide a prescription on international flights.

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