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Airlines That Best Serve Passengers with Limited Mobility

Published by: Beth Mowbray25 August, 2022
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 13% of U.S. adults have mobility disabilities, including significant trouble walking or climbing stairs. These limitations could require the use of mobility aids, such as wheelchairs or scooters, when traveling through airports or boarding flights.

Airline travel can be a challenging experience even at the best of times. Travelers may face flight delays or cancellations, long airport check-in lines or TSA screening lines, congested terminals, and other issues boarding or deplaning flights. These stressors are compounded for passengers with limited mobility, who have additional needs to ensure a safe and pleasant travel experience.

In 1986, passengers with disabilities gained legal protections against discrimination from airlines with the passage of the Air Carrier Access Act. This act ensures travelers with disabilities have equal access to flights, while also requiring airport facilities and airplanes to provide necessary accommodations and properly trained staff. In particular, the act requires airlines to assist passengers who have mobility impairments with boarding and deplaning, including handling their wheelchairs or scooters.

How well do airlines adhere to these guidelines to serve their passengers with mobility limitations? Bounce collected information from the Air Travel Consumer Reports for the first quarter of 2022 to rank airlines based on how often they mishandle wheelchairs and scooters. Information for this analysis was released by the U.S. Department of Transportation using data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Seventeen airlines were ranked based on the percent of wheelchairs and scooters mishandled. An item is considered mishandled when a customer files a formal complaint after a flight. The total number of wheelchairs and scooters mishandled in the first quarter of 2022 was 2,894 out of 195,965, or about 1.5 wheelchairs per 100 boarded. Numbers displayed are rounded to the first decimal point.

Read on to learn which airlines best serve passengers with limited mobility.

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#17. JetBlue Airways

Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 372 (5.1% of those boarded)

Total serviced: 7,318

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#16. Spirit Airlines

Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 132 (4.8%)

Total wheelchairs serviced: 2,724

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#15. PSA Airlines

Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 49 (2.2%)

Total wheelchairs serviced: 2,262

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#14. Envoy Air

Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 59 (2.1%)

Total wheelchairs serviced: 2,805

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#13. American Airlines

Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 495 (2.0%)

Total wheelchairs serviced: 24,562

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#12. Frontier Airlines

Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 132 (2.0%)

Total wheelchairs serviced: 6,643

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#11. Hawaiian Airlines

Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 35 (1.5%)

Total wheelchairs serviced: 2,396

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#10. Southwest Airlines

Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 588 (1.3%)

Total wheelchairs serviced: 44,030

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#9. Alaska Airlines

Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 93 (1.3%)

Total wheelchairs serviced: 7,088

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#8. Republic Airways

Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 45 (1.3%)

Total wheelchairs serviced: 3,522

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#7. United Airlines

Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 303 (1.2%)

Total wheelchairs serviced: 25,990

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#6. Mesa Airlines

Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 23 (1.1%)

Total wheelchairs serviced: 2,078

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#5. Endeavor Air

Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 39 (1.0%)

Total wheelchairs serviced: 3,806

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#4. SkyWest Airlines

Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 109 (1.0%)

Total wheelchairs serviced: 11,354

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#3. Delta Air Lines

Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 395 (1.0%)

Total wheelchairs serviced: 41,393

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#2. Horizon Air

Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 9 (0.4%)

Total wheelchairs serviced: 2,055

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#1. Allegiant Air

Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 16 (0.3%)

Total wheelchairs serviced: 5,939

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