If you aren’t familiar, Senator Tammy Duckworth (D., Illinois) is a veteran who lost her legs in combat. When traveling, Duckworth prefers to not wear her prosthetics. Instead, she prefers to travel with her motorized wheelchair. Duckworth has had a few issues with her mobility devices getting damaged by airlines
Two years ago a measure passed that would require airlines to disclose data on their handling of wheelchairs and other mobility assistance devices. Unfortunately, there was a roadblock where airline lobbyists were able to create a reasonable argument for Congress that it would be difficult and costly to collect data about their improper handling of mobility devices. Even though the original bill passed with bipartisan support, it was paused.
Things are about to change. In a recently passed aviation reauthorization package, Senator Duckworth and colleagues were able to add a rule requiring airlines to disclose data. The argument that the data would be difficult to collect is believed to be a fib or overhyped as the airlines allegedly do collect that info for internal purposes. As of December 2018, data will get collected for disclosure starting in January 2019. Information can be found on the U.S. Department of Transportation website.
Senator Duckworth and advocates alike agree that this airline damage information provided to consumers who are reliant on mobility devices will be no different than when a consumer wants to look up stats on an airline’s or flight’s average for running on-time.
So, if you rely on a wheelchair or motorized mobility device and plan to travel, you’ll be able to start viewing reports on which airlines are handling with care. The goal at the end of the day is accountability. And the hope is that when airlines start recognizing that consumers know if they are handling these devices poorly, change for the better will come.
In the meantime, if you are reliant on a device and are traveling, it never hurts to look into travel insurance to see if immediate replacement or rentals are included as the airline can sometimes drag its heels.
We will report further if new information comes out regarding the activation of this measure.
To read more about the new airline and mobility device damage rule, visit: https://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/stevens/ct-life-stevens-wednesday-tammy-duckworth-broken-wheelchair-law-1219-story.html