DOT Addresses Accessible Lavatories, Service Animals and Oxygen on Airplanes

Earlier this month the Department of Transportation (DOT) released a new timeline for proposed changes to the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). That announcement stemmed from their request for public comments on certain access issues in 2010. At that time the DOT asked for input on the following questions:

1.Should air carriers be required to provide non-emergency medical oxygen?

2. Should 48 hours notice and medical documentation still be required for emotional support animals?

3. Should air carriers be required to provide accessible lavatories on single aisle aircraft?

4. Should airlines be required to report the number of requests they get for disability assistance to the DOT?

5. Should the scope be broadened for the types of passengers that are required to be given seats with extra leg room, and should these seats be available in all classes of service.?

After the public comment period closed, the DOT said the proposed rules were set to be released in 2011. That never happened. Apparently now they are ready to move forward, as the new timeline calls for the release of the Proposed Guidelines for public comment on February 27, 2015. The public comment period is slated to remain open until April 29, 2015.

So what does that mean? It’s hard to tell. Several advocacy groups lobbied hard for the oxygen, but the DOT has always considered it a hazardous good, so it has deferred to the FAA.

There has been a lot of chatter on the whole emotional support animals issue as of late, so we may see some changes on that.

As for the accessible lavatories on single aisle aircraft, well the airlines have always said this wasn’t financially feasible. Some industry experts point out that that accessible space-flex lavatories have been added to some new Airbus 320s; while others say the airlines are adamant about not giving up any seats.

In other words, it’s anyone’s guess. But the good news is that the ACAA is a fluid document and it has and will continue to be updated as times change.

So stay tuned, and don’t forget to comment when the Proposed Guidelines are released. After all, this is an issue that directly affects you.