Wheelchair Accessibility at Zurich Airport (and then JFK to SAN)

This analysis of the wheelchair accessibility at Zurich Airport is from Summer 2022.

Wheelchair Accessibility of Zurich HB

We took the train from Zurich HB to Zurich Airport. It was about a 15-minute train ride, and was roll-on, roll-off. Very easy access. The airport’s train station is in the same building as the airport, and so we were able to walk/scoot to the security line easily and without need of assistance. The airport itself was clean, had wide hallways, and decent options for shopping/eating (at least in the main concourses). The airport is larger than it looks, and had several split levels–we had to be careful as to which elevators we took, as only some would go to the correct floor, or the floor was broken up by a wall/gap/security/etc., and so we had to find the elevator on the correct side of the barrier. It wasn’t hard, but took a little longer than expected to figure it out.

That said, Zurich (as with all of Switzerland) had lots of signs and everyone was very friendly and helpful.

wheelchair user going down wide hallways of airport, pushing suitcase next to him

The bathrooms were fairly sparse and grouped off the main corridors. So, I was glad to find such a nice accessible bathroom on the main corridor to our terminal.

bathroom with sink, toilet, and grab rails on both sides of toilet

The gate did not have a lowered counter, but the agents came around the corner to talk with me. The gate-check of the scooter and preboard process was the same as for a domestic flight in the U.S. They also used the same aisle chair process, and were open to having 3 people lift me into the seat (as compared to the usual 2 people). They spoke English and listened to my instructions. Wheelchair accessibility at Zurich Airport was good.

Accessibility Experience at JFK Airport (NYC)

We landed in JFK airport in New York City, and had to switch planes for our flight home to San Diego. The JFK de-boarding process was fairly hellacious. The crew unloading my scooter did not bring it to the gate as they were required to do, but rather took it to customs. The gate agent was obstinate and animated in trying to force me to de-board without my scooter, which I refused to do (as is my right). It took 1.5+ hours (and me convincing the gate agent’s manager) for my scooter to be brought to the plane, and then I could de-board. After I filed a complaint with the DOT about the wait on the plane, Delta Airlines refused to compensate me for the1.5+ hour delay because Delta Airlines was “unable to determine which factors delayed reconnecting [me] with [my] chair the most [and concluded] some of the factors were extenuating and outside of Delta’s control.”

My scooter was also damaged in the process at JFK–the front shroud was punctured, my custom armrests ripped, and the motor appeared to have been pushed with the brake engaged. I worked for months with Delta (via Scootaround) to get a replacement scooter.

The flight to San Diego was delayed several hours. The seats on the flight home had minimal padding, and thus contributed to skin breakdown concerns. We then had to wait at the airport to file a complaint about the scooter damage, which made it an even longer day.

Back to top button