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Permobil Blog / March 28, 2024

Enhancing Air Travel Accessibility: Proposed Changes

Enhancing Air Travel Accessibility: Proposed Changes

Air travel is a crucial mode of transportation for millions of people around the world, offering opportunities for exploration, connection, and growth. However, for individuals with disabilities, navigating the complexities of air travel can often be challenging due to various barriers and obstacles. Recognizing the importance of ensuring safe, dignified, and accessible air travel for all passengers, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has introduced proposed changes aimed at improving wheelchair assistance services provided by airlines.  

Let's discuss the key aspects of these proposed changes and their potential impact on enhancing the travel experience for individuals with mobility impairments. 


Safe and Dignified Assistance 
The proposed changes emphasize the necessity of providing safe and dignified assistance to individuals with disabilities when offering required accommodations. This clarification underscores the importance of respecting the autonomy and dignity of passengers with disabilities throughout the travel process. 

Prompt Enplaning, Deplaning, and Connecting Assistance 
To address mishandling of wheelchairs and assistive devices, airlines will be subject to administrative penalties for any incidents resulting in lost, delayed, damaged, or stolen equipment. Passengers impacted by such mishandling will have the right to file a claim with the airline, receive a loaner wheelchair with customizations, choose a preferred vendor for repairs or replacement, and access a Complaints Resolution Official for assistance. 

Passenger Notifications and Prompt Return 
Airlines must promptly notify passengers when their wheelchairs or scooters are loaded onto or unloaded from aircraft cargo compartments. Additionally, in the event of a delayed wheelchair or scooter, airlines are required to transport the equipment to the passenger's final destination within 24 hours and offer flexibility in delivery options, such as home or hotel delivery. 


Repair or Replacement Options 
Following mishandling incidents, passengers will have the choice between having the airline handle repairs or replacements or arranging for these services through their preferred vendor. This ensures timely resolution and allows passengers to regain mobility without undue delay. 

Loaner Wheelchair Accommodations 
Airlines must provide loaner wheelchairs to individuals with disabilities while awaiting repairs or replacements for mishandled equipment. These loaner wheelchairs will be tailored to meet passengers' functional and safety-related needs, ensuring continuity of mobility assistance. 

Enhanced Training and Standards 
The proposed changes mandate annual training for airline personnel and contractors involved in assisting passengers with mobility disabilities and handling their equipment. Furthermore, new performance standards for on-board wheelchairs and lavatories on twin-aisle aircraft aim to enhance accessibility and comfort for passengers with disabilities. 

Reimbursement Considerations 
The DOT also seeks feedback on whether airlines should reimburse fare differences for passengers whose wheelchairs or scooters couldn't fit in the cabin or cargo compartment, leading to alternative travel arrangements. 

In summary, these proposed changes represent a significant step forward in promoting accessibility and inclusivity in air travel. By prioritizing the safety, dignity, and rights of individuals with disabilities, these initiatives aim to create a more equitable and welcoming travel environment for all passengers.  


As stakeholders and advocates, it's imperative to engage with the DOT's proposal and contribute to shaping policies that prioritize accessibility and enhance the travel experience for everyone. Let's work together to ensure that air travel becomes truly accessible, accommodating, and enjoyable for individuals of all abilities. 

Submit your comments here and learn how to Advocate for More. 

Advocate for more

Nicole-LaBergeNicole LaBerge, PT, ATP

Commercial Product Manager - Permobil Americas

Nicole B. LaBerge, PT, ATP is a Physical Therapist with 17 years of experience in a variety of clinical settings. She currently works for Permobil as a Portfolio Marketing Manager of Seating and Positioning products. Her past clinical practice has included seating and mobility for adult and pediatric populations, with a focus in neurological rehabilitation, power standing and wound care. Nicole has presented at the State and International Levels, has multiple publications in peer reviewed journals and enjoys sharing her passion for patient advocacy, efficiency, and clinical outcomes. She currently serves as an Executive Board Member for the Clinician Task Force.

Categories: Complex Rehab, Power, Manual, End User

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