Disability discrimination complaints against airline carriers rose 9 percent in 2014, according to the Department of Transportation’s latest annual report [PDF] on disability related airline complaints.
In 2014, 36 U.S. carriers that submitted data reported 24,044 disability related air travel, complaints while 137 foreign air carrier reported an additional 3,512 complaints, for a total of 27,556 complaints. The figure represents an increase from the 25,246 complaints submitted in 2013.
Nearly half of these complaints involved carriers’ failure to assist passengers in wheelchairs.
The DOT is required to“regularly review all complaints received by air carriers alleging discrimination on the basis of disability” and “report annually to Congress on the results of such review,” pursuant to the Wendell H Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act of the 21st Century.
Federal disability discrimination law for airlines is governed by the Air Carrier Access Act, a separate law, passed in 1986, from the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In addition to barring airlines from refusing to transport people with disabilities, the Act requires airlines to provide assistance with boarding, planning and other essential aspects of the travel process. Airlines cannot require advance notification that a person with disabilities will be flying, but may require 48-hour notice for certain accommodations.
Larger, newer aircraft must also have moveable arms rests in half of the seats and contain accessible bathrooms and priority space for storing folding wheelchairs in the cabin, among other requirements.