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Traveling when you or a family member has special needs can be a stressful experience. Airports and airlines try to make the process of traveling with special needs as smooth as possible. However, it’s difficult for them to help if they don’t know ahead of time what to expect. On this page we’ll tell you two ways to get assistance at the airport and on the airplane if you need it.

TSA Cares is a helpline for travelers with special needs, medical conditions or other special circumstances, which is meant to help you through the security screening process. Below we provide everything you need to know about the TSA Cares program. Also, nearly every airline has a special needs page on their website which provides helpful information. A quick phone call to the airline can usually calm your nerves over any concerns you may have. Since we are unable to contact the airlines on your behalf, we have provided the top airline’s website and contact information for your convenience.聽

The process of navigating the airport and your flight to and from your vacation destination does not have to be stressful. All it takes is a little additional planning and preparation on your part.聽 Read on to learn how to obtain airport assistance when traveling with special needs.

TSA Cares

Helpline: (855)787-2227

TSA Contact Center Email: TSA-ContactCenter@tsa.dhs.gov or Call: (866)289-9673

TSA Cares is a helpline for travelers with special needs, medical conditions or other special circumstances, which is meant to help you through the security screening process.聽

You may call TSA Cares up to 72 hours prior to traveling with questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint.聽It is also a good idea to call them again on your way to the airport to give them your exact arrival time.聽At the airport, you may also ask a TSA Officer at any time for a passenger support specialist.

Tips for Special Needs at Disney group member experiences with TSA Cares

…I know several people use TSA Cares program, and it is wonderful…I wanted to share a little bit of information using it in MCO, which is a very busy airport and can be overwhelming on how to use, we originally flew from Philly and on the morning of our flight a TSA rep called us to let us know where they were expecting us and to just call them back at this number when we arrived upstairs after checking our bags and they would meet us. This was wonderful. For the first time my daughter did not have a meltdown and they allowed for her to feel successfully independent. MCO airport is so busy…we checked out bags and then found ourselves at information and explained we had signed up to use TSA Cares and were looking for a PSS. They then showed us to where the TSS managers on Duty are, there were two of them there and they were located in the opening between the two information booths they were wearing blue TSA shirts sitting on a bench, they will look busy (because they are) but they will call for a PSS to meet you and you stay in that area until they do. The PSS and entire TSA program is amazing and you should use it. they made sure she was supported and everyone was so caring on both ends. I just wanted to share with everyone!

We called and used TSA Cares for our daughter who is T1 as well.聽 Disclaimer: was a short flight, lax to slc. Posting because although they were super nice on the phone and send an email with details on approved items we could bring on flight, there was no special line or assistance at the airport. Totally worth a call to calm your worries or anxiety about flying with supplies but just putting it out there so other folks know you might just get extra info and not the same treatment as the original poster.

We also got one gate pass at each airport so someone could come through and help us. In addition, JFK put a meet and assist flag on our ticket so we had help when we got off the plane coming home. That was huge. They still had to go through normal security but it was an extra set of hands to help us.

We used TSA Cares when we flew over Christmas break at the Kansas City & Orlando airports. Getting through TSA was a wonderful experience (seriously!)! I would highly encourage any T1 family to use this free service. We called 48 hours in advance, then called on our shuttle ride to the airport when we were 15 minutes out. We were greeted by a TSA agent at the curbside check in. We were escorted to the front of the TSA line (walked past everyone and entered in the priority entrance), we were then escorted to the front of the x-ray line (passed everyone else again), and had one agent support us as they hand examined our T1 gear. We were flying with a 5yo and 10yo both T1 with over 10 days of supplies (Pods, Dex, sensors, juices – a lot, and all the gear (liquid adhesives, removers, etc.). It was so smooth! Our TSA Cares agents were very familiar with T1Ds and their needs. We were through the entire TSA process from beginning to end at the Orlando airport was 12 minutes and that was on one of their peak travel days. The TSA Cares agent told us that they have been told there are not enough families using TSA Cares and that the program is at risk of being canceled. We had such a positive experience and wanted to pass it along.

We called and used TSA Cares for our daughter who is T1 as well.聽 Disclaimer: was a short flight, lax to slc. Posting because although they were super nice on the phone and send an email with details on approved items we could bring on flight, there was no special line or assistance at the airport. Totally worth a call to calm your worries or anxiety about flying with supplies but just putting it out there so other folks know you might just get extra info and not the same treatment as the original poster.

We also got one gate pass at each airport so someone could come through and help us. In addition, JFK put a meet and assist flag on our ticket so we had help when we got off the plane coming home. That was huge. They still had to go through normal security but it was an extra set of hands to help us.

We used TSA Cares when we flew over Christmas break at the Kansas City & Orlando airports. Getting through TSA was a wonderful experience (seriously!)! I would highly encourage any T1 family to use this free service. We called 48 hours in advance, then called on our shuttle ride to the airport when we were 15 minutes out. We were greeted by a TSA agent at the curbside check in. We were escorted to the front of the TSA line (walked past everyone and entered in the priority entrance), we were then escorted to the front of the x-ray line (passed everyone else again), and had one agent support us as they hand examined our T1 gear. We were flying with a 5yo and 10yo both T1 with over 10 days of supplies (Pods, Dex, sensors, juices – a lot, and all the gear (liquid adhesives, removers, etc.). It was so smooth! Our TSA Cares agents were very familiar with T1Ds and their needs. We were through the entire TSA process from beginning to end at the Orlando airport was 12 minutes and that was on one of their peak travel days. The TSA Cares agent told us that they have been told there are not enough families using TSA Cares and that the program is at risk of being canceled. We had such a positive experience and wanted to pass it along.

**While reviews are overwhelmingly positive, there are several negative reviews. Some airports are not as efficient or knowledgeable about TSA Cares as others. Also, some have mentioned that although they arranged the service ahead of time, no one from TSA ever showed up at the airport to meet the travelers. If you ever have any issues, you can ask any TSA Officer for a passenger support specialist. If they are unable to help you, you may call the helpline or ask for a supervisor.聽

For information about Accessibility at:

*Orlando International Airport (MCO) please see their webpage Getting Around MCO.

*Los Angeles Int’l Airport (LAX) please see their webpage Traveler Information for Persons with Disability.

*John Wayne/Santa Ana Airport (SNA) please see their webpage Helping Hands.

Airline Information

TSA Cares will assist special needs travelers through security, but what if you need help getting between security and the gate, boarding your flight, deplaning and getting from the gate to baggage claim?

You may request special assistance at the airport through the airline you are flying.聽 There are no uniform worldwide standards when it comes to passengers needing assistance. In the United States, the responsibility of assisting passengers falls to the airlines.

The聽Air Carrier Access Act聽of 1986 prohibits commercial聽airlines聽from discriminating against passengers with disabilities.

When booking your flights, you should advise the airline that you will be needing assistance. There are some standard codes (called IATA codes) that all the airlines use聽 that you may see on your ticket. However, there may be some slight variations between the different airlines.

IATA CODEMEANING
WCHR (Wheel Chair Ramp)Passenger can use stairs but needs a wheelchair or other means of transport for longer distances.
WCHS (Wheel Chair Stair)Passenger cannot use stairs and needs a wheelchair or other means of transport for longer distances.
WCHC (Wheel Chair Completely)Passenger needs a wheelchair.
DeafPassenger with hearing loss.
BlindPassenger with vision loss.
Deaf/BlindPassenger with hearing and vision loss.
DPNAPassenger with developmental or intellectual disability.

Airline Special Assistance Webpage and Contact information

Each airline has their own policies regarding Passengers with Special Needs. Find your airline below to read their policy.