Perez Online Law Office
You are here: Law Guide >> Travel Law >> Introduction >> Disabled Passengers

Disabled Passengers

What rights can passengers who have disabilities expect from airlines?

The Air Carrier Access Act and the Department of Transportation must provide passengers who have disabilities the same travel opportunities as anyone else. Major provisions include:

  • assistance boarding, deplaning, and connecting;
  • TDD telephone devices for persons with hearing or speech impairments in airport terminals and airline reservation centers;
  • a wheelchair-accessible restroom and an on-board wheelchair on new wide-body aircraft; an on-board wheelchair on most other flights upon a passenger's request (48 hours notice is required);
  • wheelchairs must be accepted as checked baggage and passengers cannot be required to sign liability waivers for them, except if already damaged;
  • timely access to gate, flight and other information at the airport or on the plane (for passengers with vision or hearing impairments);
  • movable armrests on half the aisle seats and on-board storage on new airplanes for one folding passenger wheelchair; and
  • accommodations for passengers’ service animals that do not block the aisles or other emergency evacuation routes.

The airlines cannot charge for services that are required by this rule. One exception is oxygen; the airlines are allowed to charge a fee for aircraft-approved oxygen.

Also, a small commuter aircraft may not be accessible to passengers with severe mobility impairments. When making plans to fly to small cities, travelers who have disabilities should check on the aircraft type and its accessibility.

If a dispute arises, the airline must provide a specially trained "Complaints Resolution Official" to address the concern. Airlines also must have a copy of these federal rules at every airport.

Is a person with disabilities allowed to sit in the emergency exit row?

The FAA has established safety standards for passengers who have disabilities sitting in emergency exit rows. These travelers must be able to perform certain evacuation-related functions.