I’ve never met anyone who was excited about flying with a wheelchair. Between inconsiderate or poorly trained baggage handlers and the unknown horrors of the cargo bay, wheelchairs get damaged and wheelchairs get broken. A lot. Airshells, a Copenhagen-based company, is hoping to change that.
Since 2005, Airshells has been offering European travelers the ability to rent durable protective bags for wheelchairs, scooters and other oversized goods. On July 15, Airshells announced a partnership with United Airlines to launch its service stateside. Now you can rent any of the four sizes of Airshells for use on any domestic flight by United. All you do is go the website, choose your product (as little as $25 for the first week/$12 each week after) and then input your travel specifics. Airshells will overnight the bag to your departing airport, then you pick it up and use it. The bags weigh 6 pounds and are foldable with handles, making them easy to lug through the airport. They ask you to give 48 hours notice for delivery.
Right now, the bags are only suited for manual wheelchairs, scooters and smaller devices, but if they work, hopefully Airshells will develop a similar solution for the more-susceptible power chairs. I spoke with Ole Laustsen, the COO of Airshells, and he assured me the company is working on a deal with more carriers. He said the bags have been very well received in Europe. He pointed out that because the bags are approved by the airline, any equipment damaged in transit in a bag is reimbursable.
I still yearn for the day where I can just roll on to a plane in my chair, but until then, Airshells seems like a great idea whose time has come. Check them out and let us know, either in the comments or via email, how your experience is.