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Air Carrier Access Act
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Pre trip considerations

At the airport

Boarding & Deplanng

On the plane


Work to still be done

Air Carrier Access Act Information

Summary of the ACAA

Details of the ACAA


Air Carrier Access Act

This page contains the
Guide to the Air Carrier Access Act

This guide is designed to offer travelers with disabilities an authoritative source of information about the Air Carrier Access rules: the accommodations, facilities, and services that are and are not required.
To review only the major points of the Act, visit a brief summary of the Air Carrier Access Act

Getting On And Off The Plane

The Safety Briefing

FAA regulations require that carrier personnel provide a safety briefing to all passengers before takeoff. This briefing is for the passengers’ own safety and is intended for that purpose only.

Carrier personnel may offer an individual briefing to a person whose disability precludes him or her from receiving the information presented in the general briefing. The individual briefing must be provided as inconspicuously and discretely as possible. Most carriers choose to offer this briefing before other passengers board the flight if the passenger with a disability chooses to pre-board the flight. A carrier can present the special briefing at any time before takeoff that does not interfere with other safety duties.

Carriers may not ‘quiz’ the individual about the material presented in the briefing, except to the same degree they quiz all passengers about the general briefing. A carrier cannot take any adverse action against the passenger on the basis that, in the carrier’s opinion, the passenger did not understand the safety briefing.

Safety briefings presented to passengers on video screens must have an open caption or an insert for a sign language interpreter, unless this would interfere with the video or would not be large enough to be seen. This requirement takes effect as old videos are replaced in the normal course of business.


Handling of Mobility Aids and Assistive Devices

To the extent consistent with various FAA safety regulations, passengers may bring on board and use ventilators and respirators, powered by non-spillable batteries. Assistive devices brought into the cabin by an individual with a disability shall not count toward a limit on carry-on items.

Persons using canes and other assistive devices may stow these items on board the aircraft, consistent with safety regulations.

Carriers shall permit passengers to stow wheelchairs or component parts of a mobility device under seats, or in overhead compartments.
Carriers must permit one folding wheelchair to be stowed in a cabin closet, or other approved priority storage area, if the aircraft has such areas and stowage can be accomplished in accordance with FAA safety regulations. If the passenger using it pre-boards, stowage of the wheelchair takes priority over the carry-on items brought on by other passengers enplaning at the same airport (including passengers in another cabin, such as First Class), but not over items of passengers who boarded at previous stops.

When stowed in the cargo compartment, wheelchairs and other assistive devices must be given priority over cargo and baggage, and must be among the first items unloaded. Mobility aids shall be returned to the owner as close as possible to the door of the aircraft (consistent with DOT hazardous materials regulations) or at the baggage claim area, in accordance with whatever request was made by the passenger before boarding.

If the priority storage accorded to mobility aids prevents another passenger’s baggage from being carried, the carrier shall make its best efforts to ensure the other baggage arrives within four hours.

On certain aircraft, some assistive devices will have to be disassembled in order to be transported (e.g., electric wheelchairs, other devices too large to fit in the cabin or in the cargo hold in one piece). When assistive devices are disassembled, carriers are obligated to return them to passengers in the condition that the carrier received them (e.g., assembled).

Carriers must transport battery-powered wheelchairs, except where cargo compartment size or aircraft airworthiness considerations do not permit doing so. Electric wheelchairs must be treated in accordance with both DOT regulations for handling hazardous materials, and DOT Air Carrier Access regulations, which differentiate between spillable and non-spillable batteries:

* Spillable Batteries. If the chair is powered by a spillable battery, the battery must be removed unless the wheelchair can be loaded, stored, secured, and unloaded always in an upright position. When it is possible to load, store, secure, and unload with the wheelchair always in an upright position and the battery is securely attached to the wheelchair, the carrier may not remove the battery from the chair.

* Nonspillable batteries. It is never necessary under the DOT hazardous materials regulations to remove a nonspillable battery from a wheelchair before stowing it. There may be individual cases, however, in which a carrier is unable to determine whether a battery is spillable or nonspillable. DOT has issued new rules that require new non-spillable batteries to be marked as such effective September 1995.

The carrier may remove a particular unmarked battery from the mobility aid if there is reasonable doubt that it is nonspillable, and it cannot be loaded, stored, secured and unloaded always in an upright position. An across-the-board assumption that all batteries are spillable is not consistent with the Air Carrier Access rules.

A nonspillable battery may be removed where it appears to be damaged and leakage of battery fluid is possible.


Determining the Battery Type

* Compliance with DOT rules on the marking of nonspillable batteries is sufficient to identify a battery as nonspillable for this purpose. In the absence of such markings, carrier personnel are responsible for determining, on a case-by-case basis, whether a battery is nonspillable, taking into account information provided by the user of the wheelchair.

* The battery of a wheelchair may not be drained.

* When DOT hazardous materials regulations require detaching the battery from the wheelchair, the carrier shall upon request provide packaging for the battery that will meet safety requirements.

* Carriers may not charge for packaging wheelchair batteries.

* Carriers may require passengers with electric wheelchairs to check in one hour before flight time.

* If a passenger checks in less than one hour before flight time, the carrier shall make a reasonable effort to carry his or her wheelchair unless this would delay the flight.

* Carriers must allow passengers to provide written instructions concerning the disassembly and assembly of their wheelchairs.

Carriers may not require a passenger with a disability to sign a waiver of liability for damage or loss of wheelchairs or other assistive devices. The carrier may make note of any pre-existing defect to the device.

On domestic trips, carriers’ maximum liability for loss, damage or delay in returning assistive devices is twice the liability limit established for passengers’ luggage under DOT regulations. As of the publication of this booklet, the current limit for liability on assistive devices is $2,500 per passenger (i.e., two times the $1,250 limit for luggage).

This expanded liability does not extend to international trips, where the Warsaw Convention applies. For most international trips (including the domestic portions of an international trip) the current liability is approximately $9.07 per pound for checked baggage and $400 per passenger for unchecked baggage.


Boarding and Deplaning

Properly trained service personnel who are knowledgeable on how to assist individuals with a disability in boarding and exiting must be available if needed. Equipment used for assisting passengers must be kept in good working condition.

Boarding and exiting most medium and large-size jet aircraft is almost always by way of level boarding ramps or mobile lounges, which must be accessible. If ramps or mobile lounges are not used, a lifting device (other than a device used for freight) must be provided to assist persons with limited mobility safely on and off the aircraft.

For certain small aircraft, however, at present there are few suitable devices to assist persons with limited mobility in boarding and exiting. Lifting devices for smaller aircraft are now under development and will be put into place as soon as they become available.

Carriers do not have to hand-carry passengers on and off aircraft with fewer than 30 seats, if this is the only means of getting the person on and off the aircraft. Carrier employees may do so on a strictly voluntary basis.

In order to provide some personal assistance and extra time, the air carrier may offer a passenger with a disability, or any passenger that may be in need of assistance, the opportunity to pre-board the aircraft. The passenger has the option to accept or decline the offer.

On connecting flights, the delivering carrier is responsible for providing assistance to the individual with a disability in reaching his or her connecting flight.

Carriers cannot leave a passenger unattended for more than 30 minutes in a ground wheelchair, boarding chair, or other device in which the passenger is not independently mobile.


On The Plane

Aircraft Accessibility

Prior to the enactment of the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986, accessibility requirements for aircraft were very limited. The rules implementing that law require that new aircraft delivered after April 1992 have the following accessibility features:

* For aircraft with 30 or more passenger seats:

* At least one half of the armrests on aisle seats shall be movable to facilitate transferring passengers from on-board wheelchairs to the aisle seat;

* Carriers shall establish procedures to ensure that individuals with disabilities can readily obtain seating in rows with movable aisle armrests;

* An aisle seat is not required to have a movable armrest if not feasible or if a person with a disability would be precluded from sitting there by FAA safety rules (e.g., an exit row).

* For aircraft with 100 or more seats:

* Priority space in the cabin shall be provided for stowage of at least one passenger’s folding wheelchair. (This rule also applies to aircraft of smaller size, if there is a closet large enough to accommodate a folding wheelchair.)

* For aircraft with more than one aisle:

* At least one accessible lavatory (with door locks, call buttons, grab bars, and lever faucets) shall be available which will have sufficient room to allow a passenger using an on-board wheelchair to enter, maneuver, and use the facilities with the same degree of privacy as other passengers. Aircraft with more than 60 seats must have an operable on-board wheelchair if

* There is an accessible lavatory, or

* A passenger provides advance notice that he or she can use an inaccessible lavatory but needs an on-board chair to reach it, even if the aircraft predated the rule and has not been refurbished (see below).
An aircraft delivered before April 1992 does not have to be made accessible until its interior is refurbished. At that time the relevant accessibility features shall be added.

Airplanes in the commercial fleet have their seats replaced under different schedules depending on the carrier. At the time when all seats are being replaced on an aircraft with 30 or more passenger seats,half of the aisle seats must be equipped with movable aisle armrests. This shall be done on smaller aircraft to the extent it is not inconsistent with structural, weight, balance, operational or interior configuration limitations.

Similarly, all aircraft undergoing replacement of cabin interior elements or lavatories must meet the accessibility requirements for the affected features, including cabin storage space for a folding wheelchair, and an on-board wheelchair if there is an accessible lavatory (unless prohibited by structural, weight, balance, or configuration limitations).


Seat Assignments

An individual with a disability cannot be required to sit in a particular seat or be excluded from any seat, except as provided by FAA safety rules, such as the FAA Exit Row Seating rule. For safety reasons, that rule limits seating in exit rows to those persons with the most potential to be able to operate the emergency exit and help in an aircraft evacuation. The carrier cannot deny transport, but may deny specific seats to travelers who are less than age 15 or lack the capacity to act without an adult, or who lack sufficient mobility, strength, dexterity, vision, hearing, speech, reading or comprehension abilities to perform emergency evacuation functions. The carrier may also deny specific seats to persons with a condition or responsibilities, such as caring for small children, that might prevent the person from performing emergency evacuation functions, or cause harm to themselves in doing so.

A traveler with a disability may also be denied certain seats if:

* The passenger’s involuntary behavior is such that it could compromise safety of the flight and the safety problem can be mitigated to an acceptable degree by assigning the passenger a specific seat rather than refusing service;

* The seat desired cannot accommodate guide dogs or service animals.
In each instance, carriers are obligated to offer alternative seat locations.


Service Animals

Carriers must permit dog guides or other service animals with appropriate identification to accompany an individual with a disability on a flight. Identification may include cards or other documentation, presence of a harness or markings on a harness, tags, or the credible verbal assurance of the passenger using the animal.

If carriers provide special information to passengers concerning the transportation of animals outside the continental United States, they must provide such information to all passengers with animals on such flights, not simply to passengers with disabilities who are traveling with service animals.

Carriers must permit a service animal to accompany a traveler with a disability to any seat in which the person sits, unless the animal obstructs an aisle or other area that must remain clear in order to facilitate an emergency evacuation, in which case the passenger will be assigned another seat.


In-Cabin Service

Air carrier personnel shall assist a passenger with a disability to:

* Move to and from seats as a part of the boarding and exiting process;

* Open packages and identify food (assistance with actual eating is not required);

* Use an on-board wheelchair when available to enable the passenger to move to and from the lavatory;

* Move to and from the lavatory, in the case of a semi-ambulatory person (as long as this does not require lifting or carrying by the airline employee);

* Load and retrieve carry-on items, including mobility aids and other assistive devices stowed on board the aircraft.

Carrier personnel are not required to provide assistance inside the lavatory or at the passenger’s seat with elimination functions. The carrier personnel are also not required to perform medical services for an individual with a disability.


Charges for Accommodations Prohibited

Carriers cannot impose charges for providing facilities, equipment, or services to an individual with a disability that are required by DOT's Air Carrier Access regulations.

They may charge for optional services, however, such as oxygen and accommodation of stretchers.


Personnel Training

Carriers must provide training on passengers with disabilities for all personnel who deal with the traveling public. This training shall be appropriate to the duties of each employee and will be designed to help the employee understand the special needs of these travelers, and how they can be accommodated quickly, safely, and with dignity.

The training must familiarize employees with:

* The Department of Transportation’s rules on the provision of air service to an individual with a disability;

* The carrier’s procedures for providing transportation to persons with disabilities, including the proper and safe operation of any equipment used to accommodate such persons;

* How to respond appropriately to persons with different disabilities, including persons with mobility, sensory, mental, and emotional disabilities.


Compliance Procedures

Each carrier must have at least one Complaints Resolution Official (CRO) available at each airport during times of scheduled carrier operations. The CRO can be made available by telephone.

Any passenger having a complaint of alleged violations of the Air Carrier Access rules is entitled to communicate with a CRO, who has authority to resolve complaints on behalf of the carrier.

If a CRO receives a complaint before the action of carrier personnel has resulted in violation of the Air Carrier Access rules, the CRO must take or direct other carrier personnel to take action to ensure compliance with the rule. The CRO, however, does not have authority to countermand a safety-based decision made by the pilot-in-command of an aircraft.

If the CRO agrees with the passenger that a violation of the rule occurred, he must provide the passenger a written statement summarizing the facts and what steps if any, the carrier proposes to take in response to the violation.

If the CRO determines that no violation has occurred, he must provide the passenger a written statement summarizing the facts and reasons for the decision or conclusion.

The written statement must inform the interested party of his or her right to pursue DOT enforcement action if the passenger is still not satisfied with the response. If possible, the written statement by the CRO must be given to the passenger at the airport; otherwise, it shall be sent to the passenger within 10 days of the incident.

Carriers shall establish a procedure for resolving written complaints alleging violations of any Air Carrier Access rule provision. If a passenger chooses to file a written complaint, the complaint should note whether the passenger contacted the CRO at the time of the alleged violation, including the CRO’s name and the date of contact, if available. It should include any written response received from the CRO. A carrier shall not be required to respond to a complaint postmarked more than 45 days after the date of an alleged violation.

A carrier must respond to a written complaint within 30 days after receiving it. The response must state the airline’s position on the alleged violation, and may also state whether and why no violation occurred, or what the airline plans to do about the problem. The carrier must also inform the passenger of his or her right to pursue DOT enforcement action.

Any person believing that a carrier has violated any provision of the rule may contact the following office for assistance:
Department of Transportation
Aviation Consumer Protection Division, C-75
400 Seventh Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20590


In Conclusion

The work of the Federal Aviation Adiminstration (FAA) Office of Civil Rights is not yet done. At the time of publication of this booklet, there remained a number of accessibility issues unresolved.

These include:

* Accessible terminal transportation systems;

* Boarding chair standards;

* Substitute transportation for persons unable to board small aircraft;

* Accessible lavatories on narrow body aircraft;

* Open captioning for in-flight movies and videos;

* TT service on aircraft.

There are many others.

The Department of Transportation, along with groups representing people with disabilities and the air carrier industry, is dedicated to eliminating these barriers with all possible speed.


Eccept fot the digital images by Accessible Journeys, The contents of this page, in its entirity, was obtained from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Civil Rights Website last cited at /



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