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Seating Accommodation Questions

Hi, my husband and I are, hopefully, flying to Egypt this December. I have been recently diagnosed with a medical condition that makes it necessary for me to have easy access to touch my feet, stretch my feet and legs, and move them around frequently. I am considering submitting a request for a seating accommodation for a bulkhead seat through United. Is this the kind of thing that airlines make accommodations for?
If anyone has requested an accommodation such as a bulkhead seat, can you tell me if your travel partner also gets moved to a seat beside you?

Also, I my medical condition is a hidden disability. That is to say that I look perfectly normal on the outside, but my body doesn't work right on the inside. It causes me daily pain, and my husband and I are trying to make the most of the travel years we have now while I can still manage without too much pain. Do other passengers know that the airline has made an accommodation for you? I don't want to face any ill will from other passengers because I may have extra leg room when I look perfectly normal on the outside. Any advice from those of you who may be in a similar situation?
Thank you!

ETA: Yes, I expect to have to pay for the seats. Does anyone have experience with not getting moved when the airline switches the aircraft? (See my reply below.) Or not being bumped by someone else who has status with the airline and wants the bulkhead seat I selected? And what about codeshare flights for which I cannot, at this time, see or select/pay for seats. Also wondering about special treatment. I was once on a flight, and the attendant loudly and verbally made it clear that the passenger next to me had requested an accommodation. This was a while ago. I would hope things have changed. Any experience there?

Posted by
1314 posts

I would be cautious about asking for a seat upgrade. My sister just tried this with Swiss Air as she had heard some airlines offer free upgrades for some with medical issues. After she put in her request, she was emailed 3 pages of forms for her and her doctor to fill out to determine if she was fit to fly. So, her innocent request for a free seat upgrade turned into a bit of a mess. And in the paper work, it did say a seat upgrade was possible, at the full expense of the passenger.

I am not sure how United would handle such a request, but just be aware that it might not be as easy as a simple request.

Posted by
7196 posts

You will have to pay extra for a bulk head seat they do not give them away for free. Not unless you are on a empty flight. There may be many other passengers with disabilities on the same flight making similar requests and use to paying extra.

Posted by
6872 posts

I once got a bulkhead seat (by accident I think!) on Turkish Airlines. I was seated in a row of Mothers with baby basinettes clipped to the bulkhead "wall". It was quite funny, I did not belong there. Thankfully, the babies slept most of the time and I was comfortable. I did not choose that seat (or any seat) - they put me there probably because it was free.

I would assume if you have a disability, the airline will accommodate you per your request (I have no idea what's involved though in regard to documentation).

Posted by
21724 posts

This is the case where a nice, friendly chat with the ticket agent could be beneficial. Those seats are now considered premium and you probably will have to pay. All you can do is ask.

Posted by
166 posts

Thank you to those with more flying experience than I have! Sounds like a chat would be a good idea. I certainly do not want the airline thinking I shouldn't fly! I can absolutely understand having to pay for the seats. In the past, we have purchased bulkhead or extra leg room seats, and every time the airline changed the aircraft, we lost our seats we paid for and had to get an agent on the phone to get our paid-for seats back. I am hoping with an accommodation request maybe this won't happen???
I am new to this accommodations request thing. I had to put in a requests for a few accommodations at work, and I felt uneasy about it. I don't want to be treated differently than anyone else. But at the same time, with this new diagnosis, I learned that I have to take really good care of my body or it won't be working 15 years from now. I am in my mid 40's, and I'd still like to be able to travel when I retire, although it may not be overseas!

Posted by
715 posts

I travel with my adult daughter who has a disability and I am a special education teacher. I understand your dilemma. While airlines make accommodations for disabled travelers, I have not heard of someone getting a better seat without paying for it. Airlines really like to sell their better seats.
If you want the bulkhead seat, pay the extra money when you select the seat. (btw - if your flight will be on a codeshare - you may not get to select your seat on that leg of the journey).
So, I would suggest you buy at least a Comfort class ticket or better yet a business class ticket. Check the configuration of the seating on the particular aircraft of the flight you want to book at If you have airline loyalty, you may get better seats and pricing. I don't know how else you would qualify for a better seat. As someone has previously said they may question your fitness for travel. It is a long flight to Egypt.



Posted by
1314 posts

My sister seems to be in a similar situation. She is 45 and her medical conditions are not apparent when looking at her. She ended up requesting a wheelchair for the airport, in addition to the failed seat upgrade attempt, even though was a little uneasy about it. But one of her doctors encouraged her to make the request and I think it will make a huge difference in her getting through the airports more comfortably. So, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. And I know it’s easier said then done, but try not to worry about what others might be thinking. Good luck!!!

Posted by
3378 posts

A number of years ago we were headed to Rome. We flew from Seattle to Detroit. While waiting to board Detroit>Rome, we were called to the desk. The agent said discreetly “we need your comfort seat for a customer who is wheelchair bound.” “We are moving both you & your husband to first class.” I think I went into shock.

I hope you find resolution & a wonderful journey. Thank you for sharing.

Posted by
166 posts

Ha! That's great Janis! The same happened to us a while ago, only we were sent backward, not forward!

My hope would be that the accommodation would prevent us being moved from our bulkhead seats we purchased by someone else who requested an accommodation. We also once saw the people right in front of us (who had bulkhead seats) moved for a mom with a baby--after the couple had boarded, stored all luggage, and we were getting close to leaving the gate. Seems like they move people out of those bulkhead seats for many reasons. I'd want to know that if I paid for it and need it due to a medical condition, that I will be able to stay there. It sounds like it may be a paperwork pain, so I'm very undecided about it. Thanks everyone for sharing your experiences. Trying to get onto the chat with United now...

Posted by
5191 posts

I would go ahead with the idea of simply upgrading your seating yourself. You can buy more legroom by purchasing economy plus by getting business class. Perhaps business class for yourself and economy for husband to help with the cost? You need to be able to arrive at your destination without a great deal of pain from the flight.

You certainly aren't going to have any ill will from the other passengers. They have no idea if you paid to upgrade your seating or if you are such an impressive frequent flyer that the airline upgrades you.

Posted by
166 posts

Thanks everyone! I got the issue resolved with a nice gentleman on the United chat. I need to bring the documentation from my doctor with me on the flights so I don't get bumped after boarding. I appreciate hearing all of your advice and experiences!

Posted by
1821 posts

You may not need a cane to get around, but it might help to bring a collapsible one with you, only in order to demonstrate that you do indeed have a disability.
On my last trip to Italy, I started having major knee problems about a week before departure, but was determined to go anyway.
I bought a collapsible cane, and a good knee brace for the trip.
I was gob smacked at the level of care and service from airport and airline staff for the trip.
Priority boarding on all four flights, and priority at Security too, pre flights.
I did not once ask for any special treatment, but the staff saw the cane and kindly gave me these accommodations.
We thought it would end at Rome, but a huge Security Guard caught sight of me walking with the cane, forced me into a wheelchair, told my friend who was with me "You! Run behind with luggage!" :))
We whizzed through Border control before the airline staff.
We were out of Rome Airport in about 10 minutes.
I've since had a successful total knee replacement.

Posted by
9720 posts

"but a huge Security Guard caught sight of me walking with the cane, forced me into a wheelchair, told my friend who was with me "You! Run behind with luggage!""

Oh my word, S J! That made me burst out laughing! I hope your friend was compliant with the command, lol.

Slbdaisy, good to know you had a good response with the phone agent and good plan to being some medical support documents.

Posted by
175 posts

slbdaisy-- they will remove you from the bulkhead seat if it is needed for a mother and baby. Period. Cabin crew controls, not booking agents. I'm sorry to say this but SAVE and one of you (you) needs to book a business class seat (lay flat bed) on the aisle.