On December 11, 2019 the Department of Transportation (DOT) opened public comments for a proposed amendment to the Air Carrier Access Act, that would require accessible lavatories and on-board wheelchairs on single aisle aircraft that have 125 or more seats. Currently accessible lavatories are only required on wide body jets. 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
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
Airlines for America (AIA) — an airline industry group — recently announced that it had submitted a 222-page document to the Department of Transportation (DOT), in response to a call for input on possible revisions to the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). The group’s response included the suggestion that the DOT narrow the definition of “service animal” to “trained dogs that perform a task or work for an individual with a disability.” The document also included the recommendation that airlines should not be required to allow emotional support animals (ESOs) on board. Continue reading
In a word, no. The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) is very clear on that issue. Continue reading
In response to a New York artist’s failed attempt to pass off her pet peacock (Dexter) as an emotional support animal on a recent United Airlines flight, the airline responded by tightening their emotional support animal policies beginning on March 1, 2018. Continue reading
In the final days of 2018, US District Court Judge John Bates dealt another blow to disability advocates, by further delaying the implementation of rules designed to track the number assistive devices damaged by US airlines. This Obama-era regulation was scheduled to go onto effect on January 1, 2018 until it was postponed another year by President Trump, under his agenda to reduce business regulations. Continue reading
Although travelers in the US are used to the protections that the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) affords them in this country (and on flights to and from the US), that’s not how it works on foreign soil. In fact, I routinely get reports of wheelchair-users who were unceremoniously denied boarding at airports throughout Asia. Such is the case of Kaushik Majumdar, who recently tried to board an Air India flight from Bengaluru to Kolkata.
Notice, I said “tried”.
According to reports of the incident Majumdar was told at check-in that he would have to remove the dry-cell battery from his power wheelchair and transfer to a manual wheelchair at the gate. After he did this, he was also informed that he would have to disconnect all of the wires that ran to the battery case. Being leery about his ability to properly reconnect the wires, and concerned about possible damage to his wheelchair, he refused. And then Air India refused to accept him as a passenger.
Should this have happened? Well no it shouldn’t have, but it did. And although in the US, the ACAA prohibits the removal of non-spillable batteries that are appropriately marked and installed, that’s not the way it works with Air India.
So this is just a little heads up if you happen to have India on your bucket list. Tread lightly with Air India, as they don’t appear to be “power-wheelchair friendly”. And no matter where you travel, check with the airline to see what their policies are regarding the stowage of assistive devices before you buy your ticket. A little advance research could possible save you a whole lot of heartache – not to mention a ruined trip. In this case, forewarned is definitely forearmed!