Rights of Disabled Airline Passengers

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Inside Airplane
Regulations for enforcing the Airline Carrier Access Act include specifications of required seating accommodations inside an aircraft for disabled passengers.

Disabled airline passengers are protected by the provisions of the Airline Carrier Access Act (ACAA).  Enacted in 1986, the ACAA “provides that no airline carrier may discriminate against any otherwise qualified individual with a disability, by reason of such disability, in the provision of air transportation”.  (Source: U.S. Department of Transportation implementing regulations, 14 CFR part 382)

In plain English, this means a person cannot be discriminated against by an airline solely by virtue of a disability.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has published regulations for the implementation of ACAA.  These regulations lay out in great detail the steps airline carriers must take in order to make air travel accessible for disabled passengers.  Click here to read the full document.

The regulations — 16 pages worth — are quite comprehensive.  They spell out the type of seating, accessibility of aircraft lavatories, boarding assistance for both small and large aircraft, stowage of personal equipment, accommodations for persons with hearing impairments, security screenings, service animals, and more.  They also detail the training airline carriers must provide their personnel with regard to accommodating passengers with disabilities.

What Should a Disabled Passenger Do When Denied Access to Air Travel?

A disabled passenger who has suffered discrimination by an airline has several options:

  • Contact the airline’s complaints resolution official (CRO) onsite at the airport.
  • File a written complaint with the carrier within 45 days of the alleged violation.  The carrier, in turn, is required to record all complaints, categorized by type of complaint, and submit an annual report summarizing the disability-related complaints received during the prior calendar year.
  • Contact the Aviation Consumer Protection Division of the Department of Transportation for assistance.  Here is the contact info:  400 7th Street, SW., Washington, DC 20590 phone: 202-366-2220.
  • Contact an attorney well-versed in airline discrimination cases.

If you or someone you know is disabled and has been a victim of a violation of the ACAA, email or call the law firm Abrams Landau, Ltd. at once (703-796-9555).  We can explain what laws apply and what recourse is available.  But don’t delay because there are deadlines that must be met.