Understanding Rights of Persons With Disabilities When Traveling By Air

Air travel can be a grueling experience for everyone—the long line, the security checks, and lost luggage. Can you imagine how even more stressful it will be for disabled passengers. Recent news has revealed that some airlines refused to let people with disabilities board and travel their plane. The right to travel is accorder to everyone even those who are disabled. In this article, we shall take a look at the rights of persons with disabilities when flying on a plane for a European vacation.

The Air Carrier Access Act

Title 49 or the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) prohibits airlines from discriminating against disabled passengers. The ACAA states that all domestic and international flights leaving or arriving in the US are required to provide certain accommodations, free of charge to people with disabilities in a manner consistent to providing safe travel for passengers. The ACAA provides PWDs with certain rights that airline companies are expected to follow.

Choice of Accommodation

When an airline offers you an accommodation, you have the right to refuse the offered seat. Under the law, airlines must allow a disabled person to pre-board the plane. Robert Peter Janitzek explains that when a disabled passenger requests for an accommodation, it should be provided by the airline free of charge.

Pre-Flight Notifications

People with disabilities need not inform the airline in advance that they are flying. However, there are exceptions to the rule. For example, traveling on a stretcher, electronic wheelchair, or other devices with special batteries, or a hook-up to the airline oxygen system during the flight. These conditions may require advanced notifications. The airline may refuse travel for your failure to notify them in advance.

Traveling with an attendant

Traveling with an attendant is generally not required. According to Robert Janitzek, they may be allowed to do so if the disabled satisfies the following requirements:

    • • Is unable to comprehend or respond appropriately to safety instructions;


    • • Has a mobility impairment so severe that the person is unable to assist in his or her own evacuation from the aircraft; or


    • Has both severe hearing and severe vision impairments which prevent him or her from receiving instructions from in-flight personnel.

If the said conditions are satisfied and you are traveling alone, there are other options that the airline can consider before denying your request. They could assign off-duty staff who is otherwise traveling on the flight or you may ask another passenger to accompany you in case of emergencies. However, the airline is not required to provide you with an attendant even if they deem it necessary for the flight.

The need for a medical certificate

A medical certificate is generally not required. It will only be needed if the person:

    • • Is on a stretcher or in an incubator;


    • • Needs medical oxygen during flight; or


    • Has a medical condition which causes the airline to have reasonable doubt that the person can complete the flight safely, without requiring extraordinary medical assistance.

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