December 13, 2023

Reps. Larsen, Cohen, Stanton and T&I Democrats Send Letter to Airlines Regarding Wheelchair Mishandling

Washington, D.C.—Yesterday, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Rick Larsen (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Aviation Steve Cohen (D-TN), Vice Ranking Member of the Committee Greg Stanton (D-AZ), and all Democratic Committee Members sent a letter to Airlines for America (A4A) President and CEO Nicholas Calio expressing concern and dismay regarding the continued trend of mishandled wheelchairs and scooters, most recently on display in a video showing airline employees’ mistreatment of a passenger’s wheelchair at the Miami International Airport (MIA).

“The recent video appearing to show airline employees blatantly mishandling a passenger’s wheelchair at the Miami International Airport (MIA) is appalling and unacceptable,” the Members wrote. “This is yet another in a troubling series of mishandled or damaged wheelchair incidents by commercial airlines, raising serious concerns about the systemic barriers to air travel passengers with disabilities face every day and your member airlines’ ability to effectively serve all consumers.”

“This is inexcusable,” the Members continued, highlighting the estimated 13 percent increase in incidents of mishandled wheelchairs and scooters in September 2023 compared to September 2022. “When wheelchairs and other assistive devices are damaged or lost, it does not just limit a passengers’ mobility; it hinders their independence and can have severe effects on their health.”

While A4A pledged to improve the safety and accessibility of passengers with disabilities in October 2022, considering the recent video, the members requested a detailing of the latest actions taken by A4A and its member airlines to fulfill their commitment.

The members also highlighted provisions in the House-passed Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization, the Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act, which further directs the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to develop minimum training standards for airline personnel and contractors on assisting passengers with disabilities, and create a roadmap for airlines to reduce damage to wheelchairs and mobility aids and better accommodate passengers in wheelchairs onboard aircraft, among other key reforms.

Find the full letter here