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Navigating the US Air Carrier Access Act 2022: Onboard Wheelchair Regulations for Airlines

October 17, 2023
Regulations

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) is a U.S. law that protects passengers with disabilities against discrimination when travelling by aeroplane. Under the AACAA, airlines must consistently provide various types of assistance, including wheelchair assistance and accommodations that meet passengers’ disability-related needs. All U.S. airlines must comply with these regulations at all times, as do foreign airlines when flying to or from the United States. In this blog post, we will examine how the regulations apply to airlines’ provision and handling of onboard wheelchairs.

Preventing discrimination with the Air Carrier Access Act

The ACAA makes it illegal for airlines to discriminate against people with disabilities. So, for example, airlines cannot ask for advance notice of a traveller’s disability, limit the number of people with disabilities on a flight or prevent anyone with a disability from sitting in a particular seat (except if it is necessary to comply with safety requirements from the FAA or foreign governments).

As it relates to wheelchair accessibility and facilities, the ACAA mandates that:

  • All twin-aisle aircraft with over 100 seats have wheelchair-accessible lavatories.
  • These lavatories must be equipped with door locks, call buttons, grab bars, faucets, and other controls that are easily accessible to people with disabilities, including those who use onboard wheelchairs.
  • It also requires all aircraft with more than 60 seats and an accessible lavatory to have an onboard wheelchair, regardless of when the aircraft was ordered or delivered.
  • On an aircraft with more than 60 seats but no accessible lavatory, the airline must still provide an onboard wheelchair for passengers with disabilities who have given 48 hours’ notice that they can use an inaccessible lavatory but require an onboard wheelchair to reach it.

    If an aircraft has an onboard wheelchair, airlines are mandated under the ACAA to assist with using the onboard wheelchair to help passengers with reduced mobility move to and from the lavatory. This includes support in manoeuvring (pushing, pulling, and turning) the wheelchair by carrier personnel. However, flight attendants are not required to assist in lifting the passenger from the seat to the aisle chair or from the aisle chair to the lavatory toilet.

Can wheelchair users seek damages if these regulations are not adhered to?

The original Air Carrier Access Act is an administrative law that primarily regulates the relationship between air carriers and passengers with disabilities. However, it does not allow discriminated parties to seek damages in US federal court.

The Air Carrier Access Amendments Act, included in the omnibus bill of the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) Reauthorization, passed on 1st August 2023. This amendment requires the referral of specific passenger-filed complaints to the Department of Justice and establishes a private right of action for passengers with disabilities under the jurisdiction of the Attorney General.

Have you considered the Airchair?

Airlines that need to upgrade their onboard wheelchair provisions can easily do so without making changes to their aircraft’s storage capabilities, obtaining approvals, or carrying unnecessary additional weight.

The Airchair folds small enough that can be easily stored in an overhead locker or a dog box, out of the way until it is needed. Weighing only 6kg/13lb, it can carry up to 250kg/550lb. The Airchair is designed to be simple and robust, ensuring that it is easy to use and provides maximum comfort and safety for the passenger and ensures airlines comply with ACAA regulations.

For more information about the Airchair and how it can help your airline meet the conditions stipulated in the Air Carrier Access Act, get in touch with us here.

Sources:
Traveling with a disability (2022) U.S. Department of Transportation. Available at: https://www.transportation.gov/individuals/aviation-consumer-protection/traveling-disability
Passengers with Disabilities (2022) U.S. Department of Transportation. Available at: https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/passengers-disabilities
Alexiou, G. (2023) Paralyzed Veterans of America spearheading efforts to make air travel accessible, Forbes. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/gusalexiou/2023/01/31/paralyzed-veterans-of-america-spearheading-efforts-to-make-air-travel-accessible/
Summary of the Air Carrier Access Act (2023) Wheelchair Travel. Available at: https://wheelchairtravel.org/air-travel/air-carrier-access-act-summary/