Planes and Airports

5.a. Getting information and buying plane tickets
5.b. Finding the right plane
5.c. On the plane
5.d. General strategies in planes and airports
5.e. On arrival by plane

Please note: A lot of problems people have when travelling by plane are similar to those they face when travelling by trains, etc. When reading this section please also read the trainbus and coach travel sections because for the most part only new information has been given.

If you think you may require assistance at the airport, you should let the airline, travel agent or tour operator know at least 24 hours in advance so that they can arrange the assistance.

The government provides some advice for deaf Air travel if you are deaf or hearing impaired.

5.a  Getting information and buying plane tickets

People have found the following helpful:

1. If you tell the travel agent that you are deaf when you book it will probably be put on their computer and the air hostess will then be aware of your needs. (Though it is probably worth telling the air hostess anyway in case the information has not been passed on.)

2. A lot of people said that they felt it is important to get all your travel details in writing if possible.

3. I have found that if I have to catch a connecting flight, some companies will give me a printed itinerary of my journey, so I know just where I am supposed to be at any point.


5.b. Finding the right plane

Many people find it helpful to watch the monitors. Many airports no longer call out the information but have monitors instead. It is worth checking the information at the desk because sometimes the information is wrong. 

However, some airports have monitors in the main part of the building, but not in the departure lounge (which can be used by people waiting for several different planes).  In this case people have found it helpful to find someone going on the same plane as them and keep an eye on them.

1.  As I usually travel on my own, I find some airlines have an escort service where someone will accompany me to the boarding area and onto the plane once I have checked in.  They also tell me of any changes or delays to the flight. Airlines usually need at least 24 or 48 hours notice to provide these services. 

To find out about whether the airline you are travelling with offers this type of service, you will need to contact them direct, or ask the person who is making the booking to check this, e.g. the travel agent, etc.

2. I find there are sometimes no visual displays in the departure lounges of smaller airports and there may be several boarding gates. In these circumstances, if I hear a message on the tannoy (which I can never hear properly) I always ask someone what was said. Sometimes I ask another passenger and sometimes I ask a member of staff.


5.c. On the plane

1. Many people said that they sit as far away from the engine as possible to reduce engine noise. As the location of the engines is different on different planes you may need to ask where this is.  For example it is probably best to sit in the front of a jumbo (and not at the middle or back) and in small planes it is probably best to sit at the back.

2. Many people wear ear plugs during the flight as they find this helps.   

3. Taking sweets to suck on take-off or landing helps to equalise the pressure on both sides of the ear drum and usually reduces the pain of “popping” ears.  

(Note from editors: If you are travelling by plane with a cold, glue ear or an ear infection, you may find decongestants helpful.  We would recommend that you see your doctor before flying with a cold, glue ear or ear infection.)

4. Some people said that they like to turn their hearing aids down or off.  If you turn your hearing aid down, or turn it off and take it out, remember to be to be alert to what is going on.

5. One person said, “If I have a cold I take decongestants to enable the pressure to equalise on both sides of the ear drum on take off and landing.” This reduces the chance of a ruptured ear drum and further deafness.  If you have any worries ask a chemist or doctor for advice.

6. If you have a middle ear or other condition such as otitis media, glue ear, etc, consult your doctor before your fly.  If you’ve any other ear condition that you’re worried about, consult your doctor.

7. One person said that once they have boarded they let one of the air stewards know that have a hearing loss and ask if they will let them know if there are any announcements.


5.d. General strategies on planes and airports

1. Some airports rely on visual announcements and not loudspeakers; for example, Gatwick.

2. Some airports have looped areas, so it is well worth finding out where these are if you like using the loop.  (Looped areas are usually indicated by the International Ear Symbol with a T in the corner – similar to that shown on the right.)

3. Several people said that they tell the airlines they are deaf both when they book and when they are checking in.

4. One person said that they exaggerate their hearing problem because that way they get more help.

5. Some people said that , if possible, they always travel with someone they feel they can rely on.

6. Some people said that if the announcements are distorted they ask a person nearby if they can repeat what was said. (Sometimes even hearing people seem to struggle with what’s been said.)

7. Some airports have an escort service, and it may be helpful to use it. You usually have to ask in advance so they can make sure they have someone available at the time you need them.

8. A lot of people said that they allow plenty of time for every stage of the journey so that they can be relaxed and not feel in a rush.

9. Someone said, “If I have to ask for directions, I choose someone who looks calm and helpful.”

10. One person said that they watch other peoples’ behaviour to work out what the announcements said and then they go and ask someone, to make sure.

11. One person said, “If I go through security I switch off my aid momentarily because it might set off the alarm system.”

(Modern hearing aids are mostly plastic with just a small amount of metal in them and should not therefore set off the metal detectors when going through security scanners at the airport – but there’s always a chance!)

12. Some people said that at Check-in they ask for a gangway seat so that they can see and hear the steward/ess. They explain why they need to see the steward/ess. If they are not able to book a gangway seat, they ask for one when they get on the plane and explain why.

13. Some people said that at each stage of the journey they explain to the steward/ess that they must be told personally of any important instructions and why they need to be told.

14.  A lot of people said they liked to know exactly where they were supposed to go next and roughly when.  Check-in staff may be able to write on your ticket the rough time of when to go to the departure lounge or other waiting area.

15. One person said, “I always make sure I know where I need to go next, e.g. the Departure Lounge or Check-in.  I find that knowing exactly where I have to go helps me relax.  If I can’t understand where I’ve been told to go, I ask them to write it down.  Very often, they will take me themselves.”

16.  One person said, “If I’m travelling with friends I make sure that I keep one of them in sight all the time.”

17. Some people always take their Communication Card and badge on holiday as it can help to save explaining how the speaker can help them. 

Tips on using your communication card in foreign places
One person said, “I found my Communication Card no use in foreign speaking countries, because even if people can speak English, they can’t always read it, so now I get my card translated by a translation website into the language of whatever country I’m going to.  This has been most helpful.

(A website that can translate sentences into various languages for free is:


5.e. On arrival by plane

1. Some people said that after a journey which may have made them tired, they like to rest and recover (in their previously booked quiet hotel room).

2. Some people said that they always tell the receptionist that they are hard of hearing or deaf  and ask them to come and get them if there is a fire. I also always check out the fire escapes for myself so I know how to get to them.

3. One person said, “I always try to arrange travel from the airport to my hotel beforehand.”