In August 8, 2019 the Department of Transportation issued a “Final Statement of Enforcement Policies Regarding Service Animals on Flights”. This document, which clarifies some points in the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) in regards to service animals and emotional support animals, is the result of a public process which began in May 2018. This process was initiated after the DOT received a number of airline complaints about passengers who were skirting the rules and evading pet carrier fees by falsely claiming that their pets were needed for emotional support. Over 4,500 public comments were received after the Preliminary Rule was posted. Continue reading
In an effort to better serve the needs of disabled passengers, the US Access board is seeking input in regards to necessary features on on-board wheelchairs. Continue reading
Although Ryanair claims that they have an onboard wheelchair on all their flights, apparently there wasn’t one available when Daniel Rooney needed to use it on his flight from Birmingham to Portugal earlier this summer. Continue reading
Well it happened again last month – another emotional support animal (ESA) misbehaved on a flight. This isn’t news, as it seems to be the norm these days. Pretty much anyone can go online and purchase “ESA credentials” so they can fly free with their pets. Just google “emotional support animal credentials” and you’ll get a listing of what I call “card mills” that – for a price — provide certificates, vests and other accessories that will allow your dog to accompany you anywhere. Continue reading
Although we take certain access related rights for granted in the US, that’s not always the case in other areas of the world. Take air travel for example. Under the Air Carrier Access Act, US airlines can’t require a medical certificate from a passenger just because he or she happens to use a wheelchair. Continue reading
Early last month the The International Air Transport Association (IATA) approved an accessible air travel resolution at their 75th Annual General Meeting in Seoul, South Korea. The resolution calls upon governments to follow IATA’s core principles for accommodating disabled passengers, and hopes to bring the travel sector together with regulators in order to provide consistent air travel access regulations throughout the world. Continue reading
I’m sure you’ve probably read about the “Jon Morrow Incident” on Southwest Airlines, as quite frankly, it’s been all over the internet. Mr. Morrow, who has a fused spine and brittle bones, tried to fly unsuccessfully on Southwest Airlines last month with his Eagle Lift. Although the Eagle Lift is used to transfer wheelchair-users to their airplane seats in some parts of the UK, Canada and Australia, it’s not the norm – or even required — in the US.
Originally Southwest told Mr. Morrow that he could bring his lift so his aides could use it to transfer him to the airline seat, but the airline subsequently informed him that he would not be allowed to use and transport his Eagle Lift. The airline instead offered him the use of the aisle chair, which is standard in the US.
Was the airline wrong in doing this?
Well the airline was wrong for initially telling Mr. Morrow that he would be allowed to bring and use his Eagle Lift; but legally I think they are on firm ground for their final decision. Under the Air Carrier Access Act, airlines are required to provide boarding assistance that includes “boarding wheelchairs an/or on-board wheelchairs”. They did offer Mr. Morrow that type of boarding assistance, and there is no requirement for the airline to allow passenger-provided equipment such as the Eagle Lift.
It’s true that other airlines use the Eagle Lift for boarding, but I’m sure they’ve never had a request to transport one, as Mr. Morrow himself stated, “I’m the only individual in the world who owns one.” I expect Southwest’s big concern was in their their ability to safely transport this $15,000 piece of equipment without damaging it.
According to Southwest Airlines, “In this instance, the customer was informed that we do not have boarding procedures for the safe use of his personal Eagle Lift device, nor do our employees have training for storage of the device. This final decision was made after reviewing the device’s specifications and the requirements for transporting it and the customer safely.”
I’m sorry this happened to Mr. Morrow, but Southwest was within their right to not allow the Eagle Lift on board.
On the plus side, something positive may come out of this, as Southwest also said that they are “in contact with the manufacturer of this device to learn more about the device’s unique handling and storage requirements.” So who knows, maybe things will change in the future, and they will voluntarily allow the use and transport of this device. But like I said, for now, they are operating under the letter of the law.
The figures for reported wheelchair mishandling by US airlines are in for the second month, and I have to say I’m unimpressed. Continue reading
Ian Smith had an unfortunate end to his Fiji cruise last month, when Jetstar refused to let him travel back to his home in New South Wales from Melbourne. And although Smith is a wheelchair-user, that wasn’t the reason for the denied boarding.