Legal Rights for Special-Needs PassengersFirst and foremost, you should understand your legal rights, either as a special-needs traveler or the guardian of one. Your rights are protected by the Air Carrier Access Act. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there are many prohibited practices, along with regulations defining accessibility services that must be provided. For example, if you are flying domestic, or the flight destination of an international flight is the United States, you cannot be charged a baggage fee for a wheelchair, whether it is electric or hand-powered. Furthermore, wheelchairs and assistive devices have onboard storage priority.
Other Legal Rights for Special Needs Passengers include:
- Airlines may not reject a passenger based on disability unless they can demonstrate in writing how carrying that passenger would put the safety of other passengers at risk.
- Airlines cannot implement advanced-notice regulations of travelers with disabilities, with the exception of requiring 48 hours’ notice for travelers who require logistical support.
- Airlines cannot force a person with special needs to travel with a companion unless the safety of the passenger requires an assistant.
- Airlines cannot limit seat availability to those with disabilities, except in exit rows in which passengers must be physically capable of performing certain tasks.
- Additionally, new aircraft with 30 or more seats must have movable armrests on at least half the aisle seats. There must be accessible bathrooms on new planes with twin aisles. New planes with 100 or more seats must have designated space for storing a foldable wheelchair in the cabin. All aircraft with 60 or more seats and an accessible bathroom must have a wheelchair onboard.
- Finally, those who need portable oxygen must be allowed to use it on board, as long as the container is FAA-approved.