A new law would require the Department of Transportation to take a closer look at how incidents reported by disabled airline passengers are reviewed and resolved.
The bill, introduced by Sens. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and Deb Fischer, R-Neb., would compel the DOT to produce an annual report detailing disability-related traveler complaints, including an overview of how quickly they were addressed and resolved.
“Approximately 27 million passengers with disabilities travel by air, and yet more than three decades after the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Air Carrier Access Act were signed into law, air travel continues to be riddled with unnecessary obstacles, challenges and discrimination,” Duckworth said in a statement. “Americans with disabilities know they deserve better. From untrained staff at the ticket counter to lost or damaged mobility aids, such as powered wheelchairs, to passenger injuries, disability-related complaints during air travel are on the rise.”
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How common are incidents for disabled travelers?
According to background information from Duckworth’s office, complaints against airlines by disabled travelers have been rising sharply in recent years.
She said the DOT received “1,394 disability-related complaints in 2021, which was a 54% increase from the 905 disability-related complaints DOT received in 2019 and a more than 157% increase from the 542 complaints received in 2020.”
Mobility-aid-related incidents, which seem to be categorized separately, are even more common. According to the department, U.S. airlines mishandled 941 wheelchairs and scooters in Nov. 2022, the latest month for which data is available. That’s about 1.5 incidents for every 100 mobility devices loaded onto planes that month.
What does the new legislation propose?
Under Duckworth and Fischer’s proposal, the DOT would have new requirements for reviewing and resolving complaints from disabled travelers.
If passed, the department would have to publish an annual report including five years’ worth of disability-related traveler complaint data.
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That report would need to include information about nature of the complaints. Categories the proposal outlines include:
- Mobility-device-related incidents
- Difficulty being moved or mishandled by airport or airline staff
- Accessibility of in-flight services and amenities
- Any communication issues with an airline or its staff
The report would also need to include information about the review process for such complaints, a description of how quickly each complaint was initiated for review and the timeline under which it was resolved or addressed.
Story Credit: usatoday.com