We’ve done a lot of stories about the difficulties people with disabilities face when traveling. Disabled travelers have to deal with everything from a lack of accessible features in hotel rooms to airlines destroying electronic wheelchairs and other mobility devices, without offering prompt repair or replacement. Traveling when you have a disability can be a nightmare and, while in some ways it’s getting better, there is still a very long way to go before the ideal is reached.
Fortunately, the United States Department of Transportation is stepping up to help. They have established a toll-free phone line to help air travelers with disabilities. If you have ever have an issue when traveling by air and need a way to report the issue, the Air Travelers with Disabilities hotline is now there to help out.
The line, which operates during normal business hours of 9AM–5PM EST, Monday through Friday, exists not only to help travelers with disability-related issues (including time-sensitive problems that need to be addressed immediately), but to educate consumers, providing information about the rights you have as an air traveler under the ADA and Air Carrier Access Act, and to respond to any requests you might have for printed information.
It is important to note that the DOT does require email submission of complaints if the issue is one that you wish to be formally investigated. The hotline itself serves the role of helping to facilitate compliance with federal regulations and pointing you in the right direction for obtaining customer service solutions through the airline you’re flying.
Each airline carrier is required to have a minimum of one Complaints Resolution Official (CRO) on staff at all times during operations to help travelers with disabilities. This CRO, who can be made available by telephone, is tasked with the responsibility of ensuring compliance with the Air Carrier Access rules and must take steps to correct any issues that might arise, which includes providing a written statement summarizing the facts and what steps will be taken to resolve the issue. Any passenger with a complaint alleging violations of the Air Carrier Access rules is encouraged to communicate with a CRO, who is authorized to resolve complaints in the carrier’s behalf. Only safety-based decisions made by the pilot-in-command of an aircraft cannot be overturned by the CRO.
While the hotline is certainly not a magic fix to all of the woes faced by travelers with disabilities, it is a good, centralized first step, and all those who may one day need it should be sure to keep the number handy in your cell contacts or on a card in your wallet. The number is 1-800-778-4838 (voice) or 1-800-455-9880 (TTY). We’d love to hear from anyone who’s used this hotline recently! How did it work for you?