UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
OFFICE OF AVIATION ENFORCEMENT AND PROCEEDINGS
May 13, 2009
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions Concerning Air Travel of People with Disabilities Under the Amended Air Carrier Access Act Regulation Section 382.7 – Applicability
Does the rule apply to foreign-originating charter flights?
Answer: Charter flights by foreign carriers that originate at a foreign airport and operate to a United States airport and then back to a foreign airport without picking up any passengers who did not begin their journey at the foreign airport are not subject to the requirements of Part 382 with respect to any passengers on those flights, including U.S. citizens.
On a code-share flight operated by a foreign carrier between two foreign points, is the U.S. code-share partner responsible for ensuring compliance with the service provisions of Subpart I with respect to passengers holding tickets bearing that U.S. carrier’s code?
Answer:Generally, no. In section 382.7 (c) of the final rule, Subpart I was inadvertently omitted from the list of subparts for which a U.S. carrier is responsible to ensure compliance with the service-related provisions on a flight operated by its foreign code share partner between two foreign points with respect to passengers traveling under its code. The correction of this omission will be addressed in an upcoming notice of proposed rulemaking. Until then, the Department’s Aviation Enforcement Office will only hold U.S. carriers responsible for their passengers carried on a code-share flight operated by a foreign airline under the Air Carrier Access Act (i.e., the statute itself) for ensuring that the basic services outlined in this subpart are provided. Examples of basic services include: allowing passengers to bring mobility aids and other assistive devices, including a passenger’s folding wheelchair, in the aircraft cabin to be stowed consistent with safety and security requirements; stowage of wheelchairs, other mobility aids, or other assistive devices in the baggage compartment if an approved stowage area is not available in the cabin; and returning wheelchairs, mobility aids and other assistive devices to the passenger in the condition in which they were received. An example of a service that will not be required on such flights is the acceptance of a passenger’s electronic respiratory assistive device (e.g., POC) for use on board an aircraft.
On a code-share flight operated by a U.S. carrier between a U.S. airport and a foreign airport where a passenger is holding a ticket bearing a foreign carrier’s code, which carrier is responsible for Part 382 violations involving that passenger?
Answer: In the above scenario, as the operating carrier, the U.S. airline would be responsible for violations of Part 382 with respect to all passengers on the flight, while the foreign carrier code-share partner would be responsible only with respect to passengers holding tickets bearing that carrier’s code. As a matter of policy, the Aviation Enforcement Office would generally attribute responsibility to the carrier determined to actually be at fault after conducting an investigation.
What information should be included in a request for an equivalent alternative determination?
Answer: Part 382 requires a carrier that submits an application for an equivalent alternative determination to include a detailed description of the alternative policy, practice, or other accommodation the carrier proposes to use in place of compliance with the cited provision(s) of Part 382, and an explanation of how the carrier will provide substantially equivalent accessibility to passengers with disabilities. We cannot specify what information would be appropriate in all circumstances. However, in the context of an equivalent alternative request involving movable aisle armrests, for example, diagrams, photos, and videos would likely be useful in showing that what the carrier desires to do is an equivalent alternative to the accommodation described in the cited provision(s) of Part 382. The Department has also found it to be useful for carriers to consult with organizations representing persons with disabilities when developing an equivalent alternative application to ensure the alternative policy, practice, or other accommodation actually provides an equivalent alternative to the requirements of Part 382 for which the equivalent alternative request is being made. Providing the Department the views of such organizations would be helpful.
Section 382.11 (a)(3) – Non-discrimination and Benefits of Air Transportation Related Services
If a carrier’s premium service includes airline-provided transportation from the customer’s home or a central pick-up location in the city to the airport, must that transportation be accessible to passengers with disabilities?
Answer: Yes. Both U.S. and foreign air carriers are subject to ACAA requirements generally prohibiting discrimination in the provision of air transportation and related services (14 CFR 382.11(a)(1) and (3)). If an airline provides ground transportation services to its premium customers (e.g., first class passengers or elite frequent flyers), the Aviation Enforcement Office would regard the failure or refusal of an airline to provide “equivalent service” to a passenger with a disability in connection with a covered flight in the same class of service as a violation of these provisions. Equivalent service means that the airlines must ensure that, in all relevant respects (e.g., response time, where and when the service is provided, any limitations on service availability), the service provided to people with disabilities must be equivalent to that provided to everyone else. The equivalent service obligation does not mean that the airline itself must necessarily own accessible vehicles. It could be possible, for example, for the airline to have a contract or arrangement with another provider (e.g., ground transportation company that has accessible vehicles) to pick up a passenger with a disability for the airline, as long as the service provided was truly equivalent. The obligation of U.S. and foreign airlines to provide equivalent service under the ACAA applies both in the U.S. and in other countries (with respect to flights to and from the United States in the case of foreign carriers). It should be noted that, in addition to the ACAA requirements, U.S. and foreign carriers also have an obligation to provide “equivalent service” with respect to such airline-provided ground transportation in the U.S. under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Department of Transportation’s ADA rules (49 CFR Part 37).
Section 382.23 – Medical Certificates and Medical Clearances
Under what circumstances may a carrier determine that there is reasonable doubt that a passenger can complete the flight safely without requiring extraordinary medical assistance during the flight and thus require the passenger to obtain a medical clearance as a condition for providing air transportation? How is “extraordinary medical assistance” defined?
Answer: A carrier may determine that there is reasonable doubt that a passenger can complete the flight safely without requiring extraordinary medical assistance during the flight when the passenger’s condition does not appear to be medically stable (e.g., the passenger has apparent significant difficulty in breathing, appears to be in substantial pain, etc.). Extraordinary medical care is care that may require the use of onboard emergency medical equipment (e.g., automated external defibrillator or enhanced emergency medical kit (EEMK)) or voluntary assistance from another medically trained passenger, or a delay/diversion to obtain the medical assistance necessary to stabilize that passenger. Extraordinary medical assistance may also be needed when a passenger is unable to self-administer medication or routine medical care necessary to maintain the stability of his/her condition during a flight (e.g., insulin injection). In instances where the carrier reasonably concludes that extraordinary medical assistance may be necessary, it may require a medical certificate. The carrier is also free to offer the passenger the option of undergoing preflight medical clearance.
When there is reasonable doubt that a passenger can complete a flight safely without extraordinary medical assistance, and the carrier consequently requires the passenger to provide a medical certificate from his/her physician as a condition for air travel, what information should the certificate contain?
Answer: When a passenger’s ability to complete a flight safely without extraordinary medical assistance is in doubt, the carrier may require a medical certificate that states whether the passenger is medically stable for the flight. The medical certificate should also explicitly state that the passenger is capable of completing the flight safely without requiring extraordinary medical assistance. The passenger may assist the carrier by providing information regarding his/her condition and prognosis including whether the condition is chronic or acute, although the rule does not permit airlines to require this information as a condition of travel. If the passenger has such a medical certificate indicating that he/she is capable of completing the flight safely, the carrier may require medical clearance only if there is a legitimate medical reason for believing that there has been a significant adverse change in the passenger’s condition since the issuance of the medical certificate. It would be a violation of Part 382 for a carrier to routinely require a medical clearance and refuse to honor a medical certificate provided by a passenger.
Are airlines required to provide in-flight emergency medical assistance to passengers?
Answer: No. There are no federal regulations requiring carriers to provide emergency medical care or to establish a standard of care for the provision of emergency medical care. The FAA does have certain requirements for equipment, training, and procedures which crewmembers and/or medical professionals providing voluntary medical assistance can use to respond to medical events on the aircraft. Under most airline policies, however, the use of certain emergency medical equipment (e.g., EEMK) is restricted to medical professionals providing voluntary assistance.
What should carriers do to safeguard the personal medical information (e.g., physician’s statements, medical certificates, and documentation from licensed mental health professionals for emotional support and psychiatric service animals) that Part 382 permits them to require of certain passengers in order to provide certain accommodations?
Answer: We recommend that airlines not retain personal medical information that they require a passenger to provide as a condition for obtaining disability accommodations. If airlines choose to retain such information, we recommend that they take steps to safeguard it (e.g., maintaining the information in a separate confidential file for as long as they retain the passenger’s reservation records for the flights involved).
382.27 – Advance Notice
When must a carrier accommodate a passenger accompanied by an emotional support or psychiatric service animal who has not provided 48 hours’ advance notice?
Answer: Carriers must accommodate a passenger accompanied by an emotional support or psychiatric service animal who has not provided 48 hours’ advance notice if the carrier can do so by making reasonable efforts, without delaying a flight. The carrier, at its discretion, may waive its 48 hours’ advance notice requirement in order to expedite the short-notice air travel of a passenger accompanied by an emotional support or psychiatric service animal.
Section 382.29 (b) & (c) – Safety Assistant
If a passenger with a mobility impairment presents himself/herself with a safety assistant to the carrier and it appears to carrier personnel that the passenger, relying on the physical assistance of the safety assistant, will not be able to evacuate the aircraft in case of an emergency, can the carrier require a different safety assistant?
Answer: Yes, a carrier can require a different safety assistant if its personnel reasonably believe that, relying on the physical assistance of the safety assistant presented, the passenger with a mobility impairment cannot evacuate the aircraft. However, if the passenger with a disability disagrees with the carrier’s decision, the carrier cannot charge for transporting the new safety assistant.
When is a carrier permitted to require a passenger it believes cannot physically assist in his or her own evacuation to travel with a safety assistant and to pay for the assistant?
Answer: An airline is permitted to require a passenger to travel with a safety assistant after it has asked the passenger whether he/she can physically assist in his/her own evacuation and the airline reasonably concludes that the passenger cannot do so. The Aviation Enforcement Office interprets this provision as allowing the carrier to require the passenger to pay for the transportation of a safety assistant if the passenger cannot state how he/she is able to physically assist or concedes that he/she is unable todo so. If the passenger explains how he/she can physically assist in his/her evacuation and maintains that he/she can do so, but the carrier disagrees, the carrier may require the passenger to find a safety assistant but the carrier may not charge for the transportation of the safety assistant. Alternatively, the carrier may choose to provide a safety assistant to the passenger (e.g., another passenger or an off-duty crewmember).
If a carrier’s commercial website is inaccessible to passengers with visual impairments, is that carrier required to disclose the existence of, and sell discounted web-based fares to a passenger with a visual impairment who calls or appears in person to inquire about airfares, make a reservation, or purchase a ticket?
Answer: Yes, when a carrier’s commercial website is inaccessible to passengers with visual impairments, the carrier must disclose web-based discount fares to any prospective passenger who contacts the carrier via other normal channels for inquiring about fares, making a reservation, or purchasing transportation (e.g. telephone reservation line, airport ticket counter) and states that he or she has a visual impairment and is unable to use the web site. The carrier must sell a web-based discount fare to such a person if his or her itinerary qualifies for the fare as it is offered on the web (e.g., same cities and dates).
Section 382.51(a)(5) – Airport Accessibility
How does the Department define the term "control" used in defining a carrier's facility in 14 CFR 382.3 and in Subpart D (Accessibility of Airport Facilities), which require a carrier to comply with certain provisions of Part 382 if the carrier “owns, leases, or controls” the airport facility.
Answer: The Aviation Enforcement Office defines control as the use of a facility by an airline during its operations and as may be further described in its use and lease agreement with the airport. For example, a carrier that uses a gate at an airport for the purpose of deplaning or enplaning its aircraft has control of the gate area during its deplaning or enplaning operations and is required to ensure that the applicable provisions of Part 382 are met.
Under what authority are U.S. airports required to cooperate with airlines to implement provisions of Part 382 that involve joint airline/airport responsibilities?
Answer: Most U.S. airports receive Federal financial assistance from the FAA. Therefore, airports are subject to section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in Federally-assisted programs. In some areas (e.g., provision of lifts where level-entry boarding is not available), Part 382 and the Department’s section 504 regulation (49 CFR Part 27) already impose joint requirements on airlines and airports. The Department anticipates amending Part 27 to ensure that any new joint airport/airline responsibilities in the revised Part 382 are covered under Part 27 as well as under Part 382.
Where should carriers and airports establish the service animal relief areas required at U.S. airports under the rule?
Answer: While not specifically required by our rule, carriers and airports may wish to consider the benefits of establishing animal relief areas both inside and outside the secure area (e.g., to accommodate passengers with short connection times, to minimize time needed for escort service, passenger convenience). In doing so, carriers should consult with service animal training organizations. In establishing animal relief areas inside the secure area, carriers and airports should coordinate closely with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) offices serving the airport to ensure that the animal relief area can be used consistent with TSA and CBP procedures.
Who is responsible for the installation and maintenance of service animal relief areas at U.S. airports?
Answer: Animal relief areas should be provided in cooperation between airlines and the airport operator and in consultation with local service animal training organization(s). The national and international service animal organizations below have directories of training organizations on their websites that carriers and airport operators can use to find the nearest service animal training organization to the consulting airport. Such groups are often able to put airlines and airports in touch with sources of the necessary technical expertise on establishing relief areas.
American Dog Trainers Network
Assistance Dogs International -
If the Department’s Aviation Enforcement Office received a complaint alleging that an animal relief area was not available or not being properly maintained, the carrier(s) would ultimately be responsible for ensuring these areas are available and maintained, with respect to terminal facilities it owns, leases or controls. However, the actual establishment of the animal relief area as well as its maintenance could be handled contractually with the airport operator since several carriers could be using the same designated animal relief area.
What factors should airlines and airports consider in designating and constructing areas for service animal relief at U.S. airports?
Answer: Factors to consider in establishing relief areas include the size and surface material of the area, maintenance, and distance to relief area which could vary based on the size and configuration of the airport. The best solution based on these factors will vary from airport to airport and therefore involvement of all the stakeholder groups in the planning is critical (e.g., airline, airport, service animal training organization, TSA, CBP). Some considerations for designating and constructing areas that are safe for humans and animals include:
Designate relief areas solely for that purpose. This helps keep the area free of hazards and distractions, and helps prevent the spread of waste contamination.
Establish relief areas:
accessible to passengers with all types of disabilities;
equipped with adequate lighting to enhance usability and security.
Keep the area clean (e.g., free of broken glass, bottle caps, and trash). When feasible, the area should also be free of loud noises and strong odors.
Use a gravel or sand surface for relief areas. Gravel can be disinfected adequately to reduce the chance of germs being spread between animals or being carried outside of the relief area.
Adequate drainage should be installed to allow cleaning by regularly hosing down the relief area.
Provide trash cans for waste disposal that are emptied frequently.
Note that there is a requirement for carriers to consult with service animal training organizations in establishing animal relief areas. (See question 17 above.)
Some carriers have voluntarily established disability advisory boards to provide feedback on services that may affect individuals with disabilities. May a carrier consult with its disability advisory board members in lieu of a local service animal training organization on the establishment of airport service animal relief areas?
Answer: A carrier may consult with its disability advisory board members on the establishment of an airport service animal relief area, but may not do so in lieu of consulting a local service animal training organization. Where there is no local service animal training organization, the Aviation Enforcement Office would consider consultation with a national or international service animal training organization to satisfy the requirement.
How will travelers accompanied by assistance dogs/service animals know where the relief areas are located in U.S. airports?
Answer: Passengers who request that the carrier provide them with assistance to an animal relief area should be advised by the carrier of the location of the animal relief area. Additionally, if requested, it would be the responsibility of the carrier to accompany a passenger traveling with a service animal to and from the animal relief area. The requirement to provide animal relief areas is effective on May 13, 2009, for U.S. carriers and May 13, 2010, for foreign carriers. (See also question 29.)
Subpart E (Sections 382.61 – 382.71) – Aircraft Accessibility
Given the many variations in aircraft seat design, how does the Department define “movable aisle armrest” for purposes of complying with the requirements of section 382.61?
Answer: The term “movable aisle armrest” in section 382.61 refers to an armrest on an aisle seat that moves or folds out of the way while the seatback remains in an upright position to permit a passenger with a mobility impairment to safely make an unobstructed transfer (with assistance from carrier personnel if the passenger’s physical ability necessitates such assistance) from an aisle wheelchair to his or her aircraft seat.
What factors will determine whether an aircraft seat design can be considered an equivalent alternative to a seat with a movable aisle armrest as required by Part 382?
Answer: There is no specific list of factors that the Department will consider when determining whether or not an aircraft seat without a movable aisle armrest provides an equivalent alternative to this requirement. However, in making the determination as to whether the seat is equivalent the Department looks to see whether individuals can make an assisted and unassisted horizontal transfer from the onboard aisle or boarding chair to the aircraft seat without being lifted over an armrest or other obstacle. Some factors that the Department will consider include, but are not limited to (1) the fabric used on the seat, (2) the pitch of the row of seats, (3) the training required to properly transfer passengers into the seat, (4) the shape of the seat’s shell, (5) whether the armrest moves only when the seat is placed in an angled or reclined position, and (6) any obstruction of the foot well when the seat is placed in an angled or reclined position. In reviewing equivalent alternative determination requests for the requirement that aircraft have a movable aisle armrest, the Department will view the seat and its surroundings in totality and determine whether or not the seating accommodation provides access to persons with a disability equivalent to what can be achieved via a movable aisle armrest. See question 4 for further information as to what should be included in an equivalent alternative request.
Since the applicability of certain requirements of Part 382 is linked to the passenger seating capacity of an aircraft (e.g., moveable aisle armrests on aircraft of 30 or more seats, onboard wheelchair to reach accessible lavatory on aircraft of more than 60 seats, priority stowage space for a collapsible passenger wheelchair on aircraft of 100 or more seats), may a carrier avoid complying with such requirements byreducing the number of seats on an aircraft?
Answer: No. The Department has long held that a carrier may not avoid compliance with our aircraft accessibility requirements by reducing the number of seats on an aircraft. Therefore, it looks at the manufacturer’s maximum designed seating capacity of a given aircraft type for purposes of determining compliance with Part 382. For example, if a manufacturer designs an aircraft type to hold a maximum of 110 passenger seats, a carrier that stipulates that the aircraft is to be delivered with 99 seats, or that takes delivery of an aircraft with 110 seats and then removes 11 seats, would still need to provide a priority space in the aircraft cabin to store a passenger’s folding wheelchair which is required on aircraft with a designed seating capacity of 100 or more seats. (See 14 CFR 382.67). Similarly, if an aircraft with a maximum designed seating capacity of 65 seats is modified to have fewer than 60 seats, there would still be a requirement for an onboard wheelchair. (See 14 CFR 382.65).
On aircraft whose maximum designed seating capacity is 30 or more, and the seating has been modified to fewer than 30 seats, movable aisle armrests must be provided on at least one-half of the remaining aisle seats in rows in which passengers with mobility impairments are permitted to sit under FAA or applicable foreign government safety rules. (See 14 CFR 382.61).
Section 382.81 – Seating Accommodations
Can an airline require passengers with a disability accompanied by service animals to sit in the bulkhead row?
Answer: No. As stated in 382.81 (c), a passenger with a disability traveling with a service animal must be provided, as the passenger requests, either a bulkhead seat or a seat other than a bulkhead seat that would accommodate the service animal subject to applicable safety regulations. If the passenger chooses a seat other than a bulkhead seat, the carrier is not required to permit the passenger to specify a particular seat of his or her choosing (e.g., “7C”) that he or she would not be entitled to under the carrier’s normal seat-selection procedures, except to the extent necessary to accommodate the animal as required by sections 382.117(b) and (c) of the rule.
May a carrier exclude a passenger with a disability seeking to travel with a service animal from his or her specific assigned seat or require that passenger to sit in a particular seat in the cabin?
Answer: No, except to comply with FAA or applicable foreign government safety regulations. A service animal may be placed at the feet of a person with a disability at any bulkhead seat or in any other seat as long as when the animal is seated/placed/curled up on the floor, no part of the animal extends into the main aisle(s) of the aircraft and the service animal is not at an emergency exit row seat.