Airline Travel And Disabilities

A look at some of the regulations governing airline access to persons with disabilities.

The Department of Transportation issued regulations pertaining to the rights of individuals with disabilities with regard to air travel in 1990 with the introduction of the Air Carrier Access Act. This act ensures that people with disabilities have access to airline facilities, services, and accommodations; and prohibits discrimination of the disabled. The act protects disabled individuals’ rights to air accessibility by requiring:

  • Planes with 30 seats or more to have some moveable arm rests
  • Wide-body planes to have accessible lavatories
  • Planes with 100 seats or more to have cabin storage space for a folding wheelchair
  • Planes with 60 seats or more and an accessible lavatory to have an on-board wheelchair
  • Planes with 60 seats or more and without an accessible lavatory to have an on-board wheelchair if requested 48 hours in advance of the flight by the passenger
  • Airport facilities owned by carriers must match federally regulated airports in accessibility

Additionally, passengers’ rights to service and accommodation accessibility include:

  • Assistance in boarding, deplaning, and making flight connections
  • In-cabin assistance
  • Assistive devices not being counted against a passenger’s number of carry-on bags
  • Priority for assistive devices in aircraft storage space if the passenger decides to pre-board
  • Priority for assistive devices in the aircraft baggage compartment
  • Acceptance of and packaging provision for battery-powered wheelchairs—including all parts and hazardous materials—without additional charge
  • Provision of optional services, such as oxygen (May require an additional charge)

These rights are protected by multiple regulations prohibiting discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Some of the protective regulations include:

  • Carriers may not refuse transportation to individuals on the basis of disability.
  • If the carrier refuses someone because he or she might affect the safety of the flight, the carrier must explain its reasons to the individual in writing.
  • Airlines may not require advanced notice that an individual with a disability is traveling, although 48-hour advance notice for certain services may be required.
  • Carriers may not limit the number of disabled individuals on a flight
  • Carriers may not require that an individual with a disability fly with an attendant, except in specific circumstances. If the individual and carrier disagree about the need for an attendant, the carrier may provide one at no additional charge to the individual with the disability.

© Copyright FamilyCare America, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Find this, and other helpful information, at

You are in the
Click for related topics:

Caregivers Handbook

This handy guide provides resources, checklists and worksheets
 - all in one place.