We have flown about 8 times over a 30 year period. Its never a dignified experience but the changes in this time have been quite interesting to observe. I've also read some strange 'advice' too. Hopefully this will help if you're flying for the first time.
Getting a seat on the aircraft at the front or as near it as possible has been a long standing 'battle'. Usually the word 'disabled' is followed by 'your not allowed on the front row due to safety regulations'. This is actually factually incorrect as only 1 able body is needed by regulation to open emergency exits on front row seats. My personal advice to avoid yourself huge hassle is pay for your seat - if you buy it they cant kick you out of it! All low cost carriers now offer seat reservation when you book and their seating plans clearly show you where you cannot sit but also where you can!!! This arms you with more knowledge should you then meet issues at the airport.
We suggest clients use an airline other than Ryanair if at all possible. They use a policy of disabled being 'last on' when loading, hence you will be handled infront of all the other passengers which is undignified and unsafe for the handlers. You are also required to sit by the window, a bizarre requirement as its the hardest seat to get to especially when being lifted there! However, given my comments above if you buy your seat none of this would be relevant.
You should always inform your airline/travel agent when booking your ticket of your disability, if you'll require any help at check in, on to the aircraft and if you'll need a front row seat. You may be asked to ring another number or fill in a form with more details. A day or so before you fly ring and confirm your flight and the extra help you may need.
Even after informing everyone of your requirements, its not uncommon to arrive at check in and they know nothing about you, but at least you can then stand (or is it sit?) and argue your point! If there are many passengers in front of you at check in, ask them if you can go to the front to explain your extra needs. This may avoid other passengers being seated in a front row seat, if you need it. At Faro the MyWay team will take you to the front!
Once you clear check in and are in the departures lounge, if you are not called 30 minutes before your flight is due to leave ask a member of staff if you have been forgotten (its happened to me). Also if you are called to the departure gate but then you see passengers who checked in at your desk filing past you grab somebody quickly.
Onto the plane
The method of getting on the plane depends if the aircraft is up to a passenger airgate or out on the tarmac. The passenger airgate is by far the best method as you'll normally go on in your chair and be lifted into your seat from it. However, if a 'lifting' vehicle is needed, UK airports will insist you are lifted into an aisle seat before leaving the tarmac then you'll be taken up in the lorry and lifted from the aisle chair into your seat. This can be particularly awkward for more severe disabilities as the aisle chairs are bolt upright with little room for your legs and feet (take spare straps).
Double check that your wheelchair has been put into your aircraft hold and not another one or simply left on the tarmac
Before you are transferred to your seat ensure your pressure relieving cushion* is put there first! Airline seats are hard and 3 hrs sitting on hard foam is not good especially as the altitude compromises still further your blood circulation. Once in your seat, that's it! Except it's all to do at your destination again in reverse. One big change we have seen, is how much better ground staff in overseas airports are now, we believe better than UK airports, certainly at Faro the MyWay team dedicated to serving those who are less able are usually excellent. They will normally listen to your lifting advice (what's best for you) and do it.
*You should always sit on your pressure relieving cushion on the aircraft seat to avoid causing a pressure sore. If you use a ROHO, it will inflate as the plane climbs to altitude, so when you get to cruising height recheck its pressure and adjust as required. Once you land your cushion will need reinflating and readjusting.