Wheelchair Damage Reporting Regs Delayed – PVA Sues DOT


airplane_landing_199029Wheelchair damage – or the potential for it – is something that many air travelers face every time they board a plane. And although we can’t totally stop the damage (wouldn’t that be nice?) we can enact regulations regarding how airlines report such damage, so consumers can choose the airline with the best record.

And that’s what RIN 2105–AE41 was suppose to do. To be fair, the regulation is not just about wheelchair damage, but it’s part of a broader rule that covers damage to all checked luggage. The final rule, which was published in the Federal Register on November 2, 2016, was set to take affect on January 1, 2018. That was until the Trump administration and the Department of Transportation (DOT) postponed the implementation of that rule until January 1, 2019.

And although most folks thought that nothing could be done about that, the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) thought otherwise. So much so that this vets advocacy watchdog group filed a lawsuit against the DOT in US District Court on July 31, 2017. The group argued that after five years of public comment and consideration, the rule can’t be changed without public input under the Administration Procedure Act. They are seeking injunctive relief —  they want the original effective date of the rule reinstated.

And I couldn’t agree more. This new reporting method will let potential passengers compare apples to apples so they can choose an airline that has the best record of handling wheelchairs and scooters. And the traveling public deserves that transparency.

But who could oppose such a rule? Well during the public comment period a handful of airline industry groups argued that the new reporting method would be too onerous and expensive for the airlines; and Open Doors Organization – a company that trains airline employees in disability matters – felt it would cause airlines to reduce training.

Fortunately the DOT gave more weight to the 260 public comments from airline passengers who expressed their support for the proposed rule. See folks, your public comments really do matter!!

In any case, this will be an issue for the courts to decide, but I applaud PVA for stepping up and challenging the delay in implementation. Sometimes you really just have to take a stand!