Air travel rights for people with disabilities

Disability laws that apply to air travel

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities when dealing with commercial airlines. 

The ACAA covers:

  • the airline, 
  • the services it provides, and 
  • the airplane itself. 

The ACAA also applies to all flights to, from, or within the United States.

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities at airports and in terminals.

Learn more about facility and building accessibility

About the Air Carrier Access Act

The ACAA’s requirements cover a wide range of air travel issues, including the following. 

  • With some exceptions, airlines may not:
    • Refuse to transport people because they have a disability.
    • Require advance notice that a person with a disability is traveling.
    • Limit the number of persons with disabilities on a flight.
    • Require a person with a disability to travel with another person.
    • Keep anyone out of or require anyone to sit in a specific seat because they have a disibility, unless there are safety requirements.
  • With some exceptions, airlines have to:
    • Make sure that airport facilities and services that they own, lease or control are accessible.
    • Assist with boarding, deplaning, and making connections, and also some in-cabin help.
    • Assist with the loading and stowing of assistive devices.
    • Return assistive devices to the passenger in the same condition the airline received them. Airlines must cover the cost of repairing or replacing damaged and lost assistive devices.
    • Provide seating accommodation help that meets passengers’ disability-related needs.
    • Make available “complaints resolution officials” to respond to complaints from passengers and must also respond to written complaints. 
  • There are requirements to improve the accessibility of new and existing aircrafts.
  • Training is required for airline and contractor staff who deal with the traveling public.

Flying with a service animal

Under the ACAA, a service animal means a dog that is trained to do work or tasks that  benefit a person with a disability.  Animals other than dogs, emotional support animals, comfort animals, companionship animals, and service animals in training are not service animals.

A service animal is allowed to be with its handler inside the airplane cabin, but must behave. This includes no barking, growling, running around, and/or jumping onto other passengers, etc. 

Airlines may also require a person traveling with a service animal to complete Department of Transportation forms about the animal’s health, behavior, and training.

Learn more about service animals.

Learn more about the ACAA and its requirements 

Complaints about air travel accessibility 

Airports and terminals

Contact the airport owner/operator and/or the airport ADA/504 Coordinator first. If additional help is needed, contact the FAA Airport Disability Compliance Program. They investigate complaints from travelers with disabilities who did not have the same level of access that an airport provides to all travelers.

Security checkpoints 

Contact the Transportation Security Administration.

Airline operators 

Contact the Aviation Consumer Protection.

Ask us

If you have questions about the air travel rights of people with disabilities, we can help.

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