The major airlines, for the most part, have similar rules for handling the special needs of air travelers. Requirements that are out of the ordinary generally are handled on a case-by-case basis on each airline. Here are the rules for some special services:
SERVICE FOR THE DISABLED
All airlines offer free wheelchair service from the moment a passenger arrives at the reservations counter. There is no requirement for advance notice, although the airlines recommend passengers request a wheelchair when they make their reservations to speed up service. Individuals with their own wheelchairs are usually required to check them at the gate and use a special airline chair to board. Some airlines, such as Northwest, also provide oxygen service for passengers who must give 48 hours' notice and use oxygen provided by the airline. Northwest charges $75 for each leg of a trip for the oxygen. Passengers are responsible for providing their own oxygen whenever they are outside the aircraft.
The rules for travel by unaccompanied minors are basically the same for all airlines. No child under 5 years of age can travel alone on any of the major airlines. Children ages 5 through 7 can travel on direct flights, including flights with one stop that do not involve a change of planes. Children ages 8 through 11 may fly alone on connecting flights. Service for unaccompanied children ages 12 through 17 can also be requested. In each case the airlines charge a fee, generally $30 for each leg of a trip up to $60 for a one-way flight. Some charge more for additional legs. If unaccompanied service is requested, the adult escort must show identification and verify the name, addresses and phone number of the person meeting the plane at the child's destination. The child will not be released to anyone other than the person named by the parent or responsible adult at the start of the trip.
For most airlines, peanuts are still the allergy to deal with; the rest are up to the passengers. Passengers with peanut allergies can at least get airlines to give them pretzels. Some airlines -- notably Northwest and Southwest -- will pull all the peanuts off a flight if they get advance notice. Other airlines, including US Airways, will try to add some pretzels if a passenger gives 24 hours' notice. American says it has solved the problem by simply eliminating peanuts and serving pretzels instead. If you have other allergies that aren't food-related, however, you're essentially on your own.