Flying while disabled
How airlines fail passengers
three decades after the Air Carrier Access Act
and how accessibility can be improved
Flying while disabled
How airlines continue to fail passengers three decades after the Air Carrier Access Act and how accessibility can be improved
Congress created the Air Carrier Access Act in 1986 to ban discrimination in air travel for people with disabilities, but many travelers still report challenges. Meanwhile, people with disabilities are traveling more than previous generations and more Americans are living long enough to develop conditions that require accommodations.
In September 2019, the U.S. Transportation Secretary announced the creation of a federal advisory committee to “identify and assess barriers to accessible air travel,” as well as advise the government on recommended improvements. Called the Air Carrier Access Act Advisory Committee, it also must submit a report “on the needs of passengers with disabilities in air travel” by November 20, 2020.
In the meantime, GateHouse Media will document these travelers’ experiences, hold private and public leaders accountable to their promises, and highlight ideas for how to make air travel accessible for all. This is a dynamic reporting project that will be guided by the insights of travelers and airport workers. We encourage your suggestions and questions.
Travelers with power chairs report damage, injuries and lost opportunities
Airlines damage thousands of mobility aids every year. ‘It’d be an uproar’ if it were pets.
Jennifer Brooks left her power chair at home when she visited her dying father
Carolyn Agee was abandoned and immobile for 4-hour layover
Eric Howk flies to rock shows almost every week despite accessibility challenges
Kristen Parisi had never been apart from her chair until she flew to her best friend’s bridal shower
Ben Mattlin wouldn’t risk flying, so he drove 2,000 miles instead
Cindy Otis has seen the world from her power chair. She still thinks airlines could do more to prevent damage
Playing for a rugby team, Max Woodbury learned to live with flying’s regular challenges and occasional humiliations
Report cards: A look at how often airlines report wheelchairs and scooters as damaged or lost
Air traveling tips for chair users
Advice for safe, comfortable flying with a mobility aid.
Flying while disabled: About the series
Flying while disabled: Share your story with us