Langevin, Baldwin Introduce Legislation to Protect Rights of Disabled Airplane Passengers

Air Carrier Access Amendments Act will build upon progress made in 2018 FAA Reauthorization

WASHINGTON – U.S. Representative Jim Langevin (D-RI) and U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) today introduced the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act of 2019 to protect the rights of disabled airplane passengers, improve air travel safety, and close service gaps that passengers with disabilities frequently encounter in air travel. Langevin introduced the House bill with U.S. Representatives Dina Titus (D-NV) and Steve Cohen (D-TN), who are both members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation.

“As a quadriplegic, I am all too familiar with the obstacles people with disabilities encounter when flying,” said Congressman Langevin. “All Americans deserve equal access to the skies, and I am proud to introduce this legislation in the House to fight discrimination and ensure passengers with disabilities are able to fly with dignity.”

“We need to break down the barriers that individuals with disabilities and our veterans face when they travel,” said Senator Baldwin. “Equal access to air travel for individuals with disabilities is about fairness and freedom. This legislation will enhance the rights and safety of airline passengers with disabilities, including our veterans.”

For more than 30 years, the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) has prohibited discrimination based on disability in air travel. Despite this progress, too many travelers with disabilities encounter significant barriers—such as damaged assistive devices and wheelchairs, delayed assistance, ineffective communications, and lack of seating accommodations.

In 2016, passengers filed 32,445 disability-related complaints with air carriers, which represented an approximately 5 percent increase over 2015. The majority of these complaints were related to failure to provide assistance and seating accommodation. Last year, several provisions from the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act of 2018, including a bill of rights for passengers with disabilities, were included in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act.

The Air Carrier Access Amendments Act of 2019 is supported by Paralyzed Veterans of America, AMVETS, Blinded Veterans Association, The American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, VetsFirst, Wounded Warrior Project, American Association of People with Disabilities, American Council of the Blind, The Arc of the United States, Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Christopher and Diana Reeve Foundation, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, Easterseals, Epilepsy Foundation, Muscular Dystrophy Association, National Association of the Deaf, National Council on Independent Living, National Disability Rights Network, National Federation of the Blind, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the United Spinal Association.

“We applaud Sen. Baldwin and Rep. Langevin for reintroducing this bill since it addresses many of the difficulties that travelers with disabilities encounter in air travel,” said David Zurfluh, National President of Paralyzed Veterans of America. “Improving the overall safety and protections of air travel for passengers with disabilities is one of our top legislative priorities for 2019. We look forward to working closely with Sen. Baldwin, Rep. Langevin and other members of Congress to ensure the passage of this important legislation.”

“Many veterans with disabilities still encounter significant barriers when they travel by air including damaged equipment, delayed assistance and lack of seating accommodations. As long as these barriers still exist, The American Legion supports the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act,” said Brett Reistad, National Commander of The American Legion.

The Air Carrier Access Amendments Act will:

  • Strengthen ACAA enforcement by requiring referral of certain passenger-filed complaints to the Department of Justice and establishing a private right of action;
  • Ensure new airplanes are designed to accommodate the needs of people with disabilities by requiring airlines to meet defined accessibility standards. These standards will address safe and effective boarding and deplaning, visually accessible announcements, seating accommodations, lavatories, and better stowage options for assistive devices;
  • Require removal of access barriers on existing airplanes to the extent that it is readily achievable, easily accomplishable, and may be done without much difficulty or expense; and 
  • Improve the overall safety of air travel for passengers with disabilities.

Text of the bill.