Transportation Department Proposes Major Wheelchair Changes


Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced the proposed rule changes on Thursday, February 29, 2024.


Changes Include New Passenger Protections, Airline Demands

Under the new rule proposals, any mishandling of a wheelchair – defined as being lost, delayed, damaged, or stolen – would immediately become a violation of the Air Carrier Access Act. As a result, consumers could have several new protections available.


In addition to immediately notifying customers about the mishandling, the airline would need to provide several options, including providing the information for a complaints resolution officer. Airlines would have an obligation to return a lost or delayed wheelchair to the flyer by whatever means possible within 24 hours.


If the wheelchair is damaged in transit, the airline would provide a repair either through their channels or pay for the flyer to have it repaired through their preferred vendor. Airlines would also be responsible for providing a loaner wheelchair while the original is being repaired.


Airline employees and contractors would also need to be trained every year on wheelchair handling, including hands-on practice assisting flyers in wheelchairs. When traveling, those needing a wheelchair would need to be deplaned as soon as the last passenger not needing assistance leaves, and wheelchairs would need to be placed as close to the front of the plane as possible.


Airlines would need to improve standards for wheelchairs that come on-board with the passenger for small and narrowbody aircraft, which would be “consistent with existing standards for single aisle aircraft with 125 or more seats.” Flyers would be notified when their wheelchairs are loaded and deplaned, with immediate notification if it doesn’t fit.


“There are millions of Americans with disabilities who do not travel by plane because of inadequate airline practices and inadequate government regulation, but now we are setting out to change that,” Buttigieg said in a statement. “This new rule would change the way airlines operate to ensure that travelers using wheelchairs can travel safely and with dignity.”


The public is encouraged to provide comments on the proposed rulemaking for the next 60 days. Flyers can learn more about the proposal on the Department of Transportation website.

Source: frugal travel guy

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