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Services for Customers with Special Need Traveling to/from USA

  1. Reservations
  2. Advanced Notice
  3. Seat Assignments
  4. Airport Assistance
  5. In-Flight Assistance
  6. Wheel Chair Specific Services
  7. Batteries
  8. Frequently Asked Questions

Ethiopian Airlines is committed to providing safe, convenient, and comfortable service for its customers. The following information is provided to assist customers with disabilities in planning a trip with us.


The services outlined herein only apply to all Ethiopian flights to/from USA. If your travel includes other carrier(s), check directly with that carrier for your travel needs as different polices and procedures may apply.


We recommend that you make your special services request such as wheelchair assistance when you make your reservation. Although we do not require information about the extent of your disability, the more information we have about you, the better prepared we shall be to meet your needs.

If a passenger contacts Ethiopian and indicates that he/she   cannot use Ethiopian’s    websites due to a disability Ethiopian shall disclose and offer Web-based fares to such passengers  without charging a fee for making a reservation over the phone as a disability accommodation.

  • By Phone
    At Washington D.C: 1 800-445 2733 (Customers with hearing problems can contact 
    our reservation office through Telephone Relay Services using 1-800-828-1120)
    At Addis Ababa: +251116179900
  • Online at Ethiopianairlines

    To indicate your special requests while booking online on our website, please select your special request from the drop down box in the ‘passenger information’ section. After completing your reservation online, you can include additional special needs information in your reservation online or you may include additional special needs in your reservation by sending your request Here.

  Advanced Notice

We recommend that all customers make their reservations as far in advance as possible.

  • We recommend that passengers give us advance notice of 72 hours and check-in one hour in advance to receive in-flight medical oxygen supplied by Ethiopian.
  • We recommend that passengers provide us advance notice of 48 hours and check-in one hour in advance to use their respirator, ventilator, CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine or POC (Portable Oxygen Concentrator).
  • At least 48 hours advance notice and one hour advance check –in are required on the day of departure, if you,
    • are traveling in a stretcher
    • need devices such as a respirator, ventilator, CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) or POC (Portable Oxygen Concentrator) to hook-up to the aircraft electrical power supply. Please note that such aircraft electrical power supply cannot be guaranteed;
    • need hazardous materials packaging for batteries or other assistive devices which are required to have such packaging;
    • are travelling with a service animal, an emotional support or psychiatric service animal to travel in the cabin;
    • need accommodation for a passenger who has both severe vision and hearing impairments;
    • require the use of an on-board wheelchair provided by Ethiopian; or
    • are transporting an infant in an incubator.

In cases where there are no level entry boarding bridges, we require passengers who will need to use a wheelchair lift or ramp device for boarding to check-in one hour early to permit adequate boarding time.

We also recommend that you contact us in advance if you,

  • require wheelchair assistance
  • need assistance getting in and out of the aircraft seat
  • require specific seating arrangement

If you are traveling with a battery powered respiratory assistive device that you will use in-flight, please contact us no later than 48 hours before the scheduled departure to confirm the expected maximum duration of the flight and to determine the required number of batteries to power your device.

  Seat Assignments

Ethiopian offers accessible seating for customers with disabilities upon request. In order to ascertain that accessible seating is available for you, please contact us no later than 24 hours prior to the scheduled departure of your flight.

  • Bulkhead seats 

    Bulkhead seats are usually in the first row of each cabin and often provide additional leg room.
  • Movable Aisle Armrest Seats 

    Movable aisle armrest seats allow customers to more easily transfer into and out of their seats.
  • Designated Disability Seats 

    Ethiopian reserves a few number of seats for customers who fit the following criteria,
  • Use an aisle chair to access their seat and cannot readily transfer over a fixed armrest.
  • Travel with a service animal
  • Have a fused or immobilized leg
  • Travel with a safety assistant or a personal care attendant

To reserve one of these designated disability seats, contact your agent or Ethiopian reservations at least 24 hours prior to departure.

Note: Aircraft change may affect your pre-assigned seat reservation. When this occurs, every effort will be made to accommodate your accessible seating needs.

  Airport Assistance

Ethiopian staff are available to assist passengers with disabilities in boarding, deplaning and connecting with their flights.

We provide connecting flight assistance for individuals who may need help from one departure gate to another. If you are a non-ambulatory passenger requiring connecting assistance and you have a lengthy layover time, we recommend that you travel with a companion to ensure maximum comfort during the layover.

  • Pre-boarding 

    Ethiopian offers pre-boarding for customers with disabilities. Please advise the agent when you arrive at the gate that you need pre-boarding assistance.
  • Boarding 

    If you are unable to ascend or descend using passenger steps, Ethiopian will provide assistance using any available equipment or device for the purpose.
  • Aisle Chairs 

    Ethiopian avails assistance in getting to and from as well as transferring in and out of the aircraft seat using boarding chairs designed for such narrow aircraft aisles.

  In-Flight Assistance

  • Safety Briefings
    • Flight attendants provide individual safety briefings to customers with disability.
    • Captioning is provided on aircraft with videotaped safety briefings.
    • Safety briefing cards in Braille are available on board the aircraft and can be provided on request
  • Carry on Stowage 

    Ethiopian personnel will assist with stowing and retrieving of carry-on items and assistive devices upon request.
  • On-board Wheelchairs
    • Due to space constraints, standard wheelchairs generally cannot be used on board
    • If a wheelchair cannot be stowed on board, it will be transported in the cargo compartment.
    • Ethiopian’s aircraft operating to/from the USA has an on board wheelchair which may be used by passengers to move to and from the lavatory. Flight attendants will assist with the use of the on board wheelchair, but will not assist with functions within the lavatory.
  • Other services
    • Flight attendants can also help identify food items, slicing food and opening packages
    • Flight attendants are not permitted to assist with eating or personal hygiene. They cannot lift or carry passengers, or provide medical services such as injections. Passengers requiring extensive personal assistance are encouraged to travel with a personal care attendant.

  Wheel Chair Specific Services

  • Airport wheelchairs 

    Ethiopian customer service personnel are available to assist customers in boarding, deplaning and transferring between gates using wheelchairs and aisle chairs. 

    Due to the limited number of available wheelchairs, customers who request wheelchair assistance in advance as noted on their boarding pass will be given priority over those requests made on board or on arrival. Due to high demand for wheelchairs during certain periods, a short wait may be necessary.
  • Checking your wheelchair 

    Ethiopian transports all types of assistance devices, including collapsible and non folding manual wheelchairs and electric/battery powered wheelchairs. 

    You may check your personal wheelchair at the departing gate and arrange for its return at the connecting and/or arrival gate. We will return assistive devices as close to the aircraft door as possible, fully assembled and ready for use provided that it is permissible by law. 

    Note: Time between connecting flights may not be sufficient to provide your personal wheelchair during a layover. If time is a factor, we suggest you take advantage of our wheelchair service or consider booking a longer connection to allow extra time between flights.

    If checking your wheelchair, we strongly recommend that you attach handling instructions to assist our personnel. For example:
    • Provide instructions on switching your electric/battery-powdered wheelchair into manual mode and removing (without tools) any removable parts.
    • Identify your wheelchair’s specific battery type and attach battery removal instructions to the wheelchair. (See the batteries section below.)


Please ensure that your wheelchair batteries are clearly labeled as spill-able or non-spill-able so that we may establish and apply correct dangerous goods handling procedures.

  • Spill-able batteries (wet-cell) 

    Wet-cell batteries are considered spill-able, and require special preparations to transport by air. Ethiopian will take the following steps as deemed appropriate:
    • disconnect battery and protect the terminals against electric shortening.
    • remove and package the battery.
  • Non-spill-able batteries (dry-cell and gel-cell)

    Dry cell and gel cell batteries are considered non-spill-able. Under such circumstances, Ethiopian will take the following steps:

    • disconnect the battery post connections and wrap each post connector with tape to prevent electrical shorts during shipping.
    • remove and package the battery if we cannot load or stow your wheelchair in an upright position. 

Note: Ethiopian cannot transport damaged or leaking batteries.

 Priority Cabin Stowage for Assistive Devices

Ethiopian is using a closet as the priority space to stow at least one typical adult sized folding, collapsible, or break down manual passenger wheelchair. We have installed a placard prominently on the closet indicating that such wheelchair and other assistive devices are to be stowed in this area with priority over other items brought onto the aircraft by other passenger or crew.    The dimensions of the wheelchair to be stored in the closet are 13 inches by 36 inches by 42 inches or less without having to remove the wheels or otherwise disassemble it.

A passenger with a disability who uses a wheelchair and takes advantage of the opportunity to pre-board the aircraft can stow his/her wheelchair in this area, with priority over other items brought onto the aircraft by other passengers or crew enplaning at the same airport, consistent with applicable government requirements concerning security, safety, and hazardous materials with respect to the stowage of carry-on items.

Ethiopian offers pre-boarding to a passenger stowing his or her wheelchair in the cabin. 

  Frequently Asked Questions

How do I arrange travel with a service animal?

Ethiopian accepts service animals trained to assist customers with disabilities in the cabin. We only accept dogs as emotional support animals, provided there is a medical doctor’s attestation stating the medical or therapeutic need for the animal to travel in the cabin with the customer. The following policies apply.

  • A written documentation or identification cards. Credible verbal assurance that the animal is trained to provide a task or function to assist with a disability will suffice. 

    Except for the emergency exit row, there are no seating restrictions for passengers travelling with service animals. The emergency exit row is restricted for passengers travelling with service animals due to safety concerns in which the service animal may block a clear path to the emergency exit. Please contact us in advance if you are traveling with a service animal and would like to request a specific seat.

  Do I need a medical certificate to travel?

Medical certificates are generally not required for passengers with disabilities. The following conditions will however need medical certificates:

  • Travel on a stretcher
  • Travel with an incubator
  • Need for oxygen
  • Communicable disease or infection that poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others
  • Medical condition that may not allow you to complete the flight safely without extraordinary medical assistance during flight

To be valid, a medical certificate must be dated within 10 days of the initial departure of the flight. For cases regarding a communicable disease or infection, the medical certificate must be dated within 10 days of the flight for which it is presented.

If you have a communicable disease or infection, the medical certificate must state that the disease or infection would not be communicable to other persons on the flight if precautions are taken. It must also state the conditions or precautions that Ethiopian needs to take to prevent transmission of the disease or infection.

Every effort would be made to accommodate your travel needs while taking into consideration the health and safety of other customers.

  Would Ethiopian accommodate special dietary requirements?

Ethiopian can provide special meals if the request is made no later than 24 hours prior to departure.

  What if I need to bring medicine?

Always carry medication in your carry-on luggage. (Our aircraft do not have medical refrigerating facilities on board, so please plan accordingly.)

Also, if you use needles to inject medication, it is helpful to have your doctor’s prescription for security purposes. Please contact your flight attendant for proper needle disposal.

How do I arrange for supplemental oxygen on board?

With at least 48 hours notice, supplemental oxygen can be provided for you on our flights for a fee. Due to a limited supply, we recommend that you make oxygen requests at the time of the ticket purchase. A medical certificate is required upon check-in to verify the need for oxygen and the rate of flow per minute required (the aircraft’s built-in oxygen cannot be used for this purpose.)

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations prohibit the use of personal oxygen units during flight.

Ethiopian provides oxygen for in-flight use only. Therefore, if you need oxygen at departure, upon arrival or during your layover, you will need to make your own arrangements for oxygen to be provided at all ground locations.

  Can I bring personal medical equipment on board?

You may bring medical or life support equipment, such as a respirator, nebulizer or ventilator on board for use during the flight provided the equipment can fit underneath a seat or be strapped into an adjoining seat. If an adjoining seat is required, it must be purchased at the applicable fare.

Advance arrangements are necessary for use of medical equipment during flight to ensure it will not interfere with the aircrafts communications and navigation systems and to ensure availability of aircraft power hookup, if needed.

Most life support equipment use batteries. Dry or gel cell batteries are acceptable for operation on board, but wet cell batteries are not permitted.

  Do I need an attendant to travel?

Ethiopian does not provide escorts or personal attendants. Therefore, you must be accompanied by a personal care attendant to see to your needs if you are traveling in a stretcher or require extensive personal assistance on board.

  Complaints resolution officials

Ethiopian has Complaints Resolution Officials (CRO) at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport and Washington Dulles Airport to address questions and concerns from our customers with disabilities. To locate these CROs, please contact an Ethiopian representative.

For more details on the regulation of the Department of Transpiration (DOT) of the USA on the subject, please use the following link:

14 CFR, Part 382 Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel 

  • Consumers can obtain a copy of this Part 382, the regulations regarding nondiscrimination on the basis of disability in air travel, in an accessible format from the Department of Transportation by any of the following means:
    • For calls made from within the United States, by telephone via the Toll-Free Hotline for Air Travelers with Disabilities at 1-800-778-4838 (voice) or 1-800-455-9880 (TTY),
    • By telephone to the Aviation Consumer Protection Division at 202-366-2220 (voice) or 202-366-0511 (TTY),
    • By mail to the Air Consumer Protection Division, C-75, U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave., SE., West Building, Room W96-432, Washington, DC 20590, and
    • On the Aviation Consumer Protection Division's Web site (
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