As simple as it is for the majority of us to travel in an airplane, it is equally as challenging for a person to travel in a wheelchair. When damage happens, when you miss your flight because of negligence, there are steps you can take. The most important is to be aware of federal regulations that airlines follow. A number of these steps will help you stay safe and allow you to best prepare for your next trip of a lifetime.
A great resource is a guide from the United Spinal Association:
Beyond that, here are some tips if there is an incident of discrimination or damage to your equipment:
1. Inform the airlines immediately of your complaint. You have a very limited time after your flight to notify them of any damage. Most airlines give you 48 hours to report damage. If you are reporting discrimination or complaints against the Carrier Access Act, you have 45 days to report.
2. Different airlines have different policies in regard to fixing your chair. Consider contacting a local wheelchair repair and ask immediate service so it doesn’t ruin my entire trip. By law the airlines are required to fix your chair if they broke it. Some airlines give you the option of going to wherever you choose. However some airlines may want to use their own company because it is cheaper. One incident a customer stated it took a month to fix but it saved them money. No other compensation was made. When you notify them of the damage make sure you ask at that time if you can use your own wheelchair/mobility device repair company. Feel free to shop around and see who can fix the chair the fastest.
3. You can also file a complaint to the Aviation Consumer Protection Division
Complaints Alleging Discriminatory Treatment Against Disabled
Travelers Under The Air Carrier Access Act and 14 CFR Part 382
The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA, 49 U.S.C. 41705) prohibits discrimination by U.S. and foreign air carriers on the basis of physical or mental disability. The Department of Transportation, in interpreting and implementing the ACAA, has issued a rule (14 CFR Part 382) setting forth the standards of service which air carriers are expected to provide to disabled individuals.
DOT operates a toll-free hotline to assist air travelers with disabilities. The hotline provides general information to consumers about the rights of air travelers with disabilities and responds to requests for printed consumer information. It also assists air travelers with time-sensitive disability-related issues that need to be addressed in “real time.” Click here for information about this disability hotline.
If you believe that you have been subjected to treatment by an airline that violates the requirements of the ACAA or the rule and would like DOT to investigate the complaint, you may submit a complaint to the Department’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division. We encourage you to use our web form. If you prefer, you may send us a letter or a completed paper complaint form at the following address:
Aviation Consumer Protection Division
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave, SE
Washington, D.C. 20590
The complainant should provide:
- Claimants full name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, if any, and the name of the party who suffered the alleged discriminatory conduct, if other than the person submitting the complaint;
- The name of the air carrier involved in the incident, as well as the date of the incident, the place where it occurred and the flight number(s) involved;
- A detailed description of the incident that you believe constituted discriminatory action, including names of those involved (or a description of the individuals) and names of any witnesses; and
- Any other information you believe might be helpful in supporting your complaint. Please send copies (not originals) of any pertinent documents you have relating to the incident (e.g., ticket, boarding passes, itinerary sheets, and correspondence to and from the carrier involved).
Know your rights! You should be familiar with the Airline Carrier Access Act (ACAA) regarding these 4 points :
2. Boarding and deplaning assistance.
3. Stowing and Treatment of personal equipment.
4. Services in the cabin/aisle chair etc.