June 09, 2017

Senator Hassan Joins Colleagues in Introducing Legislation to Protect Rights of Airplane Passengers who Experience Disabilities

Over 30,000 airplane passengers, including many veterans, filed disability related complaints with airlines last year

WASHINGTON – Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Ed Markey (D-MA) yesterday in introducing the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act. The legislation would protect the rights of airplane passengers who experience disabilities and close service gaps that passengers with disabilities frequently encounter in air travel. Last year over 30,000 airplane passengers, including many veterans, filed disability-related complaints with airlines.

“Individuals who experience disabilities often face barriers to air travel, and the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act would be a critical step forward in ensuring that people with disabilities have the same rights and access to air travel as everyone else,” said Senator Maggie Hassan. “When we fully include more people in our society and economy, our entire nation grows stronger, and I will continue working with members of both parties to ensure that individuals who experience disabilities have the protections and support they need to be fully included in our communities.”

For more than 30 years, the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) has prohibited discrimination based on disability in air travel. Despite this progress, many travelers with disabilities still encounter significant barriers when they travel by air including damaged equipment, delayed assistance and lack of seating accommodations. In 2015, airplane passengers filed more than 30,000 disability-related complaints with airlines and nearly 1,000 disability-related complaints with the Department of Transportation.

Specifically, the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act will:

  • Strengthen ACAA enforcement to include specific protections of the rights of passengers with disabilities and a private right of action.
  • Ensure airplanes are designed to accommodate people with disabilities and airlines meet accessibility standards, including safe and effective boarding and deplaning, visually accessible announcements and better stowage options for assistive devices.
  • Improve access to seating accommodations.
  • Close service gaps in air travel for passengers with disabilities.

The Air Carrier Access Amendments Act is supported by Paralyzed Veterans of America, American Association of People with Disabilities, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, National Association of the Deaf, American Council of the Blind, Easterseals, United Spinal Association, The Arc, The National Council on Independent Living, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, National Disability Rights Network and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

A one-page summary of the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act is available here