Paralyzed Veterans Of America: Too Many Wheelchairs Lost, Damaged During Flights

Published: Monday, September 18, 2017 - 3:21pm
Updated: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - 7:43am

It can happen to the best of us. You check your luggage before you get on a flight, and then when you arrive at your destination, it’s not there.

But what if that luggage didn’t just consist of your clothes and shoes? What if it was the major way you get around?

Too many wheelchairs get lost or damaged on flights, according to the group Paralyzed Veterans of America. The group filed a lawsuit last week against the Department of Transportation for not implementing an Obama-era rule that required airlines to report when wheelchairs are damaged or lost.

During the final months of the Obama administration, the Department of Transportation finalized a rule that requires airlines to report when wheelchairs are damaged or lost but the Trump administration delayed the deadline to implement that rule for a year to give airlines more time to comply.

Now Paralyzed Veterans of America is suing to get the original implementation date reinstated. I spoke with Heather Ansley more about this. She's general counsel for the group.

We also reached out to the Department of Transportation about this. They said that carriers met some challenges when they were trying to meet the original implementation date, with things like reprogramming computers and developing procedures for gate-checked bags. The Department said they believe in the importance of this rule, and that’s why they gave carriers this additional time.

The Transportation Department issued a full statement:

"The Department is committed to ensuring that all passengers, including air travelers with disabilities, have access to timely and accurate data upon which they can rely when making their purchasing decisions, and therefore issued a final rule concerning expanded reporting of airline data on mishandled bags, wheelchairs, and motorized scooters.  In preparing to meet the original compliance date, carriers have encountered challenges, such as reprogramming computer systems, developing procedures to account for gate-checked bags, and training personnel.  The Department believes in the importance of this final rule, which is why we have granted a one-year delay, until January 1, 2019, as additional time is necessary for U.S. carriers to modify their systems and procedures in order to ensure accurate and complete reporting."

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