Amended ACAA Released

Good news — the amended Air Carrier Access Act has been published in the Federal Register. Seems the folks at the DOT do a quicker turn around on things than the Access Board, who is still trying to decide on the guidelines for passenger vessels.

But I digress.

The new rules don’t offer any startling changes, but they are in an easier-to-reference Q&A format and they offer some sense of order to the mish-mash of letters, amendments and clarifications that have been issued since the law first took affect in 1990. With all the changes over the years the old document was getting difficult to reference and I have to say that the reorganization helps a lot.

As for the specifics, the document goes into some detail about how the ACAA applies to foreign air carriers. There are some exceptions, but generally speaking the nondiscrimination aspect applies to flights beginning or ending in the US on a commercial carrier.

Probably the biggest change to the existing law is in regards to Portable Oxygen Concentrators (POCs). The new law requires air carriers to allow FAA approved POCs on board and to operate during all phases of air travel. The airlines mainly objected to this because it’s very expensive to get the testing done. The DOT solved that problem by shifting the burden of testing to the manufacturers of the devices. Seems fair to me; after all they are the ones that will financially benefit from it. The DOT stopped short of requiring manufacturers to have their devices tested, but strongly recommend it.

The new law also addresses new technology – specifically wesbites and airport kiosks. Although it doesn’t mandate airline websites to be accessible, it does require that web only fares and other specials on inaccessible websites be offered to disabled passengers by phone or other reservation method. And it requires the airlines to provide physical help at inaccessible kiosks.

The new ACAA provisions are set to take effect in May 2009.

All in all it’s a good document, written in very clear and understandable language.