Tips For Deaf Fliers: Travel Proactively

Posted by: Staff Writer on Nov. 7, 2016

One sign of a frequent traveler is picking your flight based on your connection because their favorite airport restaurant is at that hub and the wings there can’t be beat. Another seasoned traveler might pick an airline based on free wifi or the free checked luggage- heck even getting to bring two carry-ons for free is becoming more of a perk and less of a given.

Deaf travelers who hit the skyways throughout the year have some tips and preferences of their own. Their advice is varied but a couple things repeat-  they want to have the most deaf-friendly flying experience possible and they plan proactively. While we can’t guarantee all of these ideas will work for everyone, self-advocating and doing what works is something that all of us can do.


Deaf travelers figure out which airline is consistently the most deaf-friendly and keep on using them, ramping up not only frequent flier miles and rewards, but upping their chances of consistently receiving deaf-friendly customer service. They also avoid airlines that typically are known for their delays and choose those with fewer delays reported to avoid miscommunication snafus and missed connections. If an airline has received a reputation for being consistently deaf-challenged it is generally avoided by Deaf travelers. Bonus tip? Purchase your wifi pass when you purchase your ticket and you often save a few bucks.

Be The Early Bird

Being early creates a cushion of time for miscommunication mishaps and any other delays caused by communication needs. Check in online as early as possible instead of at the airport. Show up to the airport at least two hours early. This is particularly important on busier travel days during the week and times of the year.  Bonus tip? Take a red eye flight, they’re usually less crowded, run fairly consistently, and often have direct flights between destinations.

Carry On

Saving time and avoiding hassle remains the name of the game. Many seasoned fliers only bring carry ons to avoid the baggage drop-off line. This way you can beeline straight for security or just print your boarding pass in person at the self-serve kiosk, saving you time and avoiding face-to-face interactions that could potentially become an added communication barrier.

Use Technology

Download the airline app on your phone and set a flight alert to inform you of flight changes, gate arrival information, connection information and even baggage claim information. It will update you to changes too. Sign up for email alerts as well and have it sent to whoever is picking you up on the other end. Print your boarding pass at home or have it sent to your phone.

Navigate Security Like A Pro

Clue TSA agents in that you’re Deaf by using ASL, wearing a “I SIGN” button or donning your #deaffriendly t-shirt. One traveler is adamant about this tip, not just for improved communication but for safety: when you’re going through the security line, at every point, with every security officer, be sure to make eye contact, keep your face and body relaxed, smile, be friendly, sign/gesture that you’re Deaf. 

Customer gets screened by airport security

Befriend the Gate Agent 

When you reach the gate, check in with the gate agent and ask them about boarding time, and request that you pre-board and have them print you a pre-boarding pass. To be clear, this is not to take advantage of the system, but rather to be sure you don’t miss important travel information- boarding information is almost always done via intercom announcements. It’s also a good time to ask if your seat arrangements can be adjusted so that you are closer to the front of the plane and therefore closer to flight attendants during the flight in case they need to inform you of any announcements and interruptions in travel. Genius travel tip alert- purchase an extra latte before you get to the gate and give it to the gate agent. 

On The Flight

Ask flight attendants which movies and programs during inflight entertainment are captioned and request help turning the captions on. Be specific in the type of communication you want to receive from attendants, how you want them to get your attention (a tap on the shoulder, a hand wave), and the form (notes/gestures), and what you want to be informed of (plane diversions, upcoming turbulence, delays, connection changes).


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We’re aware that issues facing the Deaf, Deaf-Blind, and Hard of Hearing Community can become quite passionate and divided. What can we say, we’re a group of passionate people! While we fully support a community full of passion, we also require that comments are respectful. We think negative attitudes and disrespect are a waste of everyone’s time and energy. This doesn’t mean you can’t disagree with people, you just need to do it respectfully. We reserve the right to delete or edit any comments we feel are judgmental, rude, or of attacking nature.


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