Special Travelling Assistance
Travelling should always be a pleasure, and we go out of our way to make sure that anybody with special needs feels particularly cared for. That can be a disability, a medical condition, a dietary requirement, or the fact that you’re travelling with young babies or children.
Because your health, comfort and safety are very important to us, SAA offers thoughtful services for travellers who require our special assistance. Many of these services need to be booked in advance, so please read the information below.
For further information, details of services offered or any other queries, contact:
SAA Special Bookings
If you have special travel needs, we recommend that you make your travel plans as early as possible, so that we can serve you better. Should you require any medical assistance, please request it when making your reservation or at least 48 hours prior to the departure of your flight, through your local SAA office. It is important that you provide SAA with detailed information at the time of booking. Please let us know:
- The type of mobility aids you are travelling with
- Whether your mobility aids are collapsible, electric or non-electric
- The dimensions, in adjusted or disassembled state, and weight
- If you require access to a wheelchair in the airport and/or on the aircraft
- Transfer from wheelchair to aircraft seat and vice versa.
- Service dog amenities (e.g. emotional support dogs). For conditions pertaining to the transportation of such animals please visit https://www.gov.za/services/import/import-animals-and-animal-products..
- Elderly care
- On-board facilities for the use of medical equipment, e.g. battery-operated C-PAP Machine.
- An adjacent seat for your carer
Before the day of departure
Please ensure the assistance you requested has been confirmed and authorised by SAA before you arrive at the airport. Ensure you have all the relevant documentation, including a FREMEC card and medical clearance, if applicable.
On the day of departure
It is advisable that you check-in early so we have enough time to assist you
- Flights within South Africa: Arrive at least 90 minutes before flight departure.
- International flights: Arrive 3 hours before departure time.
SAA is covered by the United States rule for non-discrimination on the basis of disability. A full copy of the rule is available on request.
For travellers with limited mobility, we offer the following assistance:
Wheelchairs at the airport
We can arrange for a wheelchair to be made available from check-in to the boarding gate, and from the aircraft to the arrivals hall at your destination. To arrange for a wheelchair, please contact your nearest SAA office at least 48 hour prior to your departure, if not at the time of booking.
Travelling with your own wheelchair:
You are welcome to check-in 1 wheelchair as part of your free baggage allowance. On flights to and from European Union destinations (London, Frankfurt, Munich), 1 further mobility device may be carried free of charge (2 in total).
Wheelchairs and mobility aids with non spillable wet batteries. Batteries must not exceed 300wH, if there are two batteries, each battery must not exceed 160wH. Spare batteries must not exceed 300wH or two spares each 160wH. Batteries removed from mobility aid must be carried in the passenger cabin.
Mobility aids onboard
Each traveller is entitled to one mobility aid e.g wheelchair, crane, crutches, etc free of charge in addition to their standard baggage allowance. These items must be small enough to be stowed without obstruction.
All our aircraft are equipped with an onboard wheelchair, allowing travellers to be escorted to and from the toilets. We also have seats with movable armrests that facilitate the transfer of a traveller from the onboard wheelchair to the seat and vice versa. For a list of aircraft with movable aisle armrests and toilets accessible to wheelchair-bound travellers, click here
A service dog, accompanying its owner, is accepted on most flights in the passenger cabin of any class, free of charge. The dog will not be occupying a seat, and must not be seated in a location that would block escape routes in the event of an emergency. The service dog must be properly harnessed, and remain with the traveller at all times. Travellers with service dogs are required to contact their local SAA Office prior to booking for further information, flight eligibility and to be allocated a suitable seat. Ask our staff at OR Tambo where the local animal relief area is situated.
- Medical clearance is required to assess your fitness to fly; especially if you need special attention or use of any medical equipment on-board. A Medical Information Form (MEDIF) should be completed by you and your doctor, if you have complicated chronic illness, recent illness, injury, surgery or hospitalization.
The form may be required of passengers who need special services such as:
- Oxygen supply (passenger or airline provided)
- Medical escort or in-flight medical treatment
- Carriage of medical equipment or instruments.
All medical information is strictly confidential. Once completed, the form must be faxed to SAA Special bookings within 10 days of your proposed flight.
Please note: We must be notified immediately of any change in your condition prior to travel. SAA Special bookings: Fax: 27 11 978 2764 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sick passengers may be affected by the following:
Reduced atmospheric pressure (cabin air pressure changes greatly 15-30 minutes after take-off and before landing, and gas expansion and contraction can cause pain and pressure).
Reduced oxygen tension (The cabin is at a pressure equivalent to an altitude of 6000 – 8000 feet and oxygen partial pressure is approximately 20% less than on the ground).
The following conditions require South African Airways medical clearance. This list is not exhaustive and if you are in any doubt as to whether your condition may require clearance, we urge you to contact SAA Special Bookings before flying.
Passengers who require us to provide inflight oxygen
- Oxygen equipment used will be subject to aircraft type and medical condition. Please visit www.faa.gov for approved POC list.
- SAA is able to provide a Portable Oxygen Concentrator (POC) that supplies oxygen on demand at flow rate of 1 - 5LPM.
- The POC may only be used after take-off and shall be stowed in preparation for the landing. (NOTE: The Cost to the passenger for this service is $150)
- SAA is able to provide portable oxygen cylinders for regional and domestic flights that supplies continuous oxygen at a flow rate of 2LPM and 4LPM. (NOTE: The Cost to the passenger for this service is $150)
- A passenger may elect to provide an US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved battery powered POC. This device may be used to supply continuous oxygen. The POC may not be used with a mask, the passenger must provide a nasal cannula.
- No additional cost for passenger provided FAA approved battery powered POC will apply.
- Passenger must supply 150% of battery power and extra batteries must be carried in passenger hand baggage and be declared to cabin crew. The spare batteries must be fully charged.
- The spare batteries must be individually protected so as to prevent short circuits by placement in the original retail packaging or by otherwise insulating the terminals (e.g. taping over the exposed terminals or placing each battery in a separate bag or pouch). The spare batteries must be carried in passenger cabin hand baggage.
- Only three batteries allowed on-board. One is inside the machine and two are spares and the power of each battery must not exceed 160wh.
- The Inogen One G2 24 Cell Battery Packs consist of two 12 Cell Battery Packs built together with a Watt-hour rating of 195.4. This exceeds the permissible Watt-hour rating of 160. As such, this battery pack is not permissible on board.
- The Inogen One G2 must be powered with an alternate acceptable battery pack.
- Passenger who requires continuous flow oxygen must book oxygen cylinder (for regional and domestic flights only) and not a concentrator, subject to operational requirements.
- A passenger owned battery operated continuous flow oxygen concentrator is accepted. Some oxygen concentrators work on demand therefore passengers are advised that they will receive oxygen flow only on inhalation.
- Passengers provided Medical Portable Electronic Devices must be battery operated.
- Aircraft power is different to normal electrical power therefore; equipment plugged into aircraft electrical power outlet could cause damage to both aircraft and equipment. Safety of the aircraft may be compromised due to Electro-magnetic Interference(EMI) – especially during the critical phase of the aircraft – take-off and landing and on the ground during alignment of the instrumentation and software loading.
The following passengers are required to book via Special Bookings:
- Travellers who require a medical escort or in-flight medical treatment.
- Travellers who have a communicable disease or infection. Your doctor must state whether the condition poses a direct threat to the safety or health of others and any precautions necessary to prevent transmission.
- Travellers who have been operated on or admitted to hospital within the previous two weeks. Your doctor must state whether you have recovered completely, and if your condition has stabilized sufficiently enough to travel by commercial air transport.
- Travellers suffering from an acute or chronic medical condition for which they might need to take medication during the flight.
- Travellers who suffer from any acute or severe symptoms, such as difficulty in breathing, high fever, severe pain, etc.
- Travellers who suffered from a recent major medical incident (heart attack, heart failure, stroke and respiratory failure or recent pneumothorax).
- Travellers who suffered from thrombophlebitis.
- Travellers who might develop any symptoms or behaviour that could have an adverse effect on the welfare of other passengers.
- Travellers whose medical condition might be aggravated during or because of the flight.
- Traveller who is travelling with a premature infant or an infant with medical condition.
- Traveller who is an unaccompanied minor with medical condition.
- Unstable mental illness/impairment
In order to make travelling easier for passengers with a disability, stable medical condition or special needs, we offer the Frequent Travellers Medical Card (FREMEC). This card’s validity is dependent on passenger condition; it varies from one to two years. The card helps you to avoid the hassle of obtaining medical clearance for each journey, and automatically determines your special requirements. Such cards are usually honoured by other airlines. For card renewal, your doctor needs to complete the application on your behalf.
Fax the completed form to SAA Special bookings: 27 11 978 2764 or your local SAA Reservations Office.
For more information contact SAA Special Handling:
Fax: +27 11 978 2764
- Ensure that you keep your medication in your hand luggage and have a doctor’s letter with you outlining your condition, medication and dosage requirements, in case you encounter difficulties while travelling. When taking liquids through security control, please ensure you comply with the airport’s restrictions.
- All excess medicines and liquids are to be carried in checked baggage.
- All prescription medicine, syringes and needles used by diabetics must be sealed and properly labelled.
- The quantity of syringes and needles is limited to the amount required for the flight.
- These must be disposed of safely as per Doctors instruction.
- For medication requiring refrigeration, ensure you bring a cooler box with ice packs. This medication must be kept with the traveller throughout the duration of the flight.
Medical clearance is only necessary if you are experiencing complications with your pregnancy.
- Travel within South Africa is permitted up to 36 weeks for a routine pregnancy.
- International travel is permitted up to 35 weeks for a routine pregnancy.
All pregnant women beyond 28 weeks’ gestation must provide a letter from their obstetrician, general practitioner or midwife stating the following:
- Term of pregnancy
- Fitness to travel
- Whether it is a single, multiple or high-risk pregnancy
- Any possible complications, including hypertension, history of premature labour, etc
- Infants are allowed to travel from 7 days of age.
- Major abdominal surgery accepted for flying after 10 days – Special booking process must be followed
Travellers dependent on colostomy bags must ensure that they arrive fitted with an empty one at the start of the journey. Travellers are responsible for carrying a sufficient number of bags for the duration of the flight and disposing of them safely as per Doctors instruction.
Braille safety cards
- Braille safety cards may be requested from our cabin crew.
Captioned safety videos
- Travellers with hearing disabilities can follow safety briefings in our captioned safety videos. Individual safety briefings are offered to anyone on request.
OXYGEN ON BOARD THE AIRCRAFT
Indications for oxygen cylinder
- Infants one month and two years, who may not be able to receive oxygen on demand from a portable oxygen concentrator,
- Medical conditions like terminal illness where passengers require free flowing oxygen.
Indications for Portable Oxygen Concentrator (POC)
- Passengers who are using portable oxygen concentrator
- All passengers (international or domestic) who require oxygen but will be able to cope with portable oxygen concentrator and their medical condition permit use of POC.
- Passenger owned POC must be battery operated with a battery inside the device and two extra batteries not exceeding 160wH. The batteries must be stowed on cabin luggage and safely wrapped to prevent short circuiting.
- SAA owned POC is at cost and uses medical outlet.
Current List of FAA approved oxygen concentrators (Please refer to FAA website)
Please note Inogen One G2 (carrying 24 cell battery pack Model Number BA224) is not allowed on board SAA flights for safety reasons.
- Travellers who are allergic to peanuts and/or other substances are required to bring it to the attention of the reservations department. In the event that you suffer from a severe allergy, you are required to bring your own emergency medication with you. SAA will not take any responsibility should you have an allergic reaction on board.