By Julie Landry Laviolette
Passengers with disabilities can find a variety of services and accessible facilities to help make their travels easier, said Nicole Hughes, manager of marketing and public information for Palm Beach International Airport.
“We're always trying to be accessible and accommodating to all of our passengers, but especially those who are traveling with disabilities,” Hughes said. “We want to make sure that they have the same experience that everyone else has, and that they find that this is an easy airport to access.”
Arriving at the Airport
If you have mobility issues and would like to request wheelchair assistance, you should go through your airline. You can reserve wheelchair assistance in advance by calling your airline or requesting it online on your airline’s website. If you need to request a wheelchair service at the airport, go to your airline’s curbside service and ask there, Hughes said.
With wheelchair service, you can get help with one piece of carry-on luggage. If you need help with additional luggage, there are Skycap services available.
If you need to drop off a rental car there are accessible shuttle buses to get you from the rental car center to the terminal.
If you have a power wheelchair, you can check it in at the gate, where it will be placed in the plane’s cargo hold. It will be returned to you when you reach your destination.
Free parking is available for Florida “Disabled Veteran” license plates, for vehicles with a Florida Toll Exemption Permit from the Florida Disabled Toll Permit Program, or vehicles that are permanently modified with special equipment such as foot controls, hand controls or motorized ramps.
The airport offers four parking options, all with accessible spots.
Premium parking is outside baggage claim. Short-term and long-term parking both have direct access to the terminal. Economy parking has an accessible shuttle from the lot to the terminal.
Passengers who would like a non-flying family member or friend to help them to the gate can request a gate pass in advance from their airline.
The person with the pass just needs to make sure they have their ID, because they will go through security, Hughes said.
Anyone needing a little more time or extra patience going through the TSA security checkpoints can request assistance through TSA Cares. The program helps travelers with disabilities, medical conditions and other special circumstances during the security screening process. Passenger Support Specialists can provide on-the-spot assistance.
Nursing mothers can pump or feed their babies in a quiet setting in one of two nursing pods located in the terminal. The accessible pods are located just past the TSA checkpoint in Concourse B, and in Concourse C, near gate C6.
Pet Relief Areas
“A lot of people are traveling with their service animals and just their pets in general, so we have two indoor and two outdoor pet relief areas,” Hughes said.
Two indoor pet relief areas can be found after the TSA checkpoint in Concourse B, by gate B1 and in Concourse C, by gate C1.
Outdoor pet relief areas are located in the east and west ends of the terminal on level 1, next to baggage claim. The outdoor areas are fenced and shaded, and offer a grassy area for pets to run and romp before or after their flight. Complimentary waste bags are available.
Food And Shopping
There are many accessible options to grab a bite to eat, a cup of coffee or a cocktail. There are some grab-and-go options as well as sit down restaurants, Hughes said.
“We have two restaurants pre-security. There are coffee shops throughout, and then there is sit-down dining in both B and C concourses, so there's a variety of options,” Hughes said.
The Escape Lounge
If you want a higher-end experience while you're waiting for your flight, head to The Escape Lounge, an accessible oasis with dining and cocktail options. There is a fee to enter. For information, see here.
If you want some entertainment while waiting for your flight, there is a small games area next to Sam Snead’s Tavern in the main terminal that includes accessible foosball and a pool table. Both are free to play.
Take in some culture at the airport’s accessible art gallery, which features the works of local artists. It is located before security in the main terminal on level two.
“Palm Beach County Art in Public Places curates the exhibits,” Hughes said. “There are local artists who submit their artwork based on a theme and it's a lovely little area overlooking the tarmac.”
Accessible family restrooms are available in each concourse and there are unisex restrooms available in concourses B and C.
If you need to make a local call or toll-free phone call, free accessible public telephones are available on each level of the terminal and in Concourses B and C.
Courtesy Help Phones
If you need help, have a question, or need to page someone in the airport, look for the white telephones located throughout the terminal and parking garages. You will be connected with the airport communication center. Paging is available inside the terminal.
There are many accessible public transportation options available to and from the airport.
Palm Tran is Palm Beach County's bus system, and it has a regular stop on Level 1. Take the Palm Tran to get to Amtrak, or Brightline, the high-speed rail service from West Palm Beach to Miami. Brightline also offers free ride share service to its station from the airport.
Tri-Rail is a local rail from West Palm Beach to Miami. It has an accessible shuttle and complimentary rideshare service from the airport to the Palm Beach Tri-Rail station. Vouchers are available on its website.
CELL PHONE WAITING LOT
If you need to pick someone up from the airport, there is a cell phone waiting lot with accessible parking at the PBI Travel Plaza, 2050 Belvedere Road, which is at the southwest corner of Florida Mango and Belvedere Road. The PBI Travel Plaza features a 7-11 convenience store, a Dunkin Donuts, Mobil gas station, car wash, electric car charging stations and free Wi-Fi.
Airport Adventures with Avelo
Students from the Palm Beach School for Autism participate in a mock immersive travel experience at the airport to help acquaint them with air travel. Avelo Airlines and TSA also participate.
The students get a boarding pass, do a mock check-in and go through security. They go to a gate and sometimes get to talk to a flight crew or board a plane, Hughes said. The tours take place about four times a year.
“It's a really a great experience for the kids and the staff really love doing it as well,” she said. Currently the program is just for students at Palm Beach School for Autism, but Hughes said she would like to expand it and offer it to the public.
Palm Beach International is updating facilities and adding additional services for people with cognitive, developmental and mobility challenges.
Concourse B will undergo renovations beginning in 2023. The 18-month project is going to add additional services for passengers with disabilities.
A multi-sensory room will provide a calm yet stimulating space for passengers who have cognitive and developmental disabilities such as autism.
There will be an adult changing station equipped with adult changing tables and room for a personal assistant to help.
The airport also is gearing up to join the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard Program, an awareness program for people who have disabilities that are not readily visible, like autism, anxiety, hearing loss and medical issues such as Crohn's disease.
“If someone is wearing the sunflower lanyard, the staff would know that this person may need a little bit more time or a little bit more assistance,” Hughes said. “It's an international project and we're hoping to implement that soon.”
For More Help
If you need help at the airport, there is a security desk on Level 2 across from the putting green. Personnel at any of the concessionaires also can help.