3 – Air Carriers Access Act

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) prohibits discrimination by U.S. and foreign air carriers on the basis of disability. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has issued rules defining the rights of passengers and the obligations of air carriers under this law. The DOT amended the rules May 13, 2009. The final rules apply to foreign carriers and add new provision concerning passengers who use medical oxygen and passengers who are deaf or hard of hearing.

ACAA rules apply to the conduct of air carrier personnel, e.g., pilots, flight attendants, gate agents or check-in counter personnel. They do not apply to Federal security screeners who are covered by rules of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Transportation Security Agency (TSA). They also do not apply to parts of the airport terminal itself, such as retail stores that are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

According to ACAA rules, air carriers must ensure that people who have a hearing loss have timely access to information that the carriers provide to other passengers. People with a hearing loss must identify themselves as a person with a hearing loss to air carrier personnel. Personnel may provide the needed information themselves, or the airline can use alternative formats, such as visual messaging to provide the requested information.

Examples of the kinds of information that must be provided include:

ACCA rules also state that service animals must be permitted to accompany an individual with a disability, and the carrier must allow the traveler to sit in any seat on the airplane unless the animal obstructs the aisle or emergency exit.

More information about filing complaints with the DOT

Toll-Free Hotline for Air Travelers with Disabilities

DOT has established a toll-free hotline to assist travelers with disabilities. The hotline provides general information to consumers about the rights of air travelers with disabilities, responds to requests for printed consumer information, and assists air travelers with time-sensitive disability-related issues that need to be addressed in “real time.”

The hours for the hotline are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, except federal holidays. Air travelers who experience disability-related air travel service problems may call the hotline at 1-800-778-4838 (voice) or 1-800-455-9880 (TTY) to obtain assistance. As in the past, air travelers who would like DOT to investigate a complaint about a disability issue must submit their complaint in writing or via e-mail. Click here for details.

“I believe today as I believed over a decade ago, as a co-author of the Americans with Disabilities Act, that accessibility in transportation is a civil right,” said Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta. “The U.S. Department of Transportation is committed to increasing mobility for all Americans, particularly those with disabilities. The establishment of the toll-free hotline is a major step in facilitating accessible air travel for all individuals with disabilities.”

In assisting individuals with disabilities who may have air travel complaints that require immediate intervention, the role of the DOT employees is one of facilitating compliance with DOT’s rules and suggesting possible customer-service solutions to the airline involved. Since compliance with the ACAA and DOT’s implementing regulations remains the obligation of the carrier, airline employees continue to decide what action will be taken in any given situation.