Air Carrier Access Act

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The Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 (ACAA) is Title 49, Section 41705 of the U.S. Code. The Act amended the earlier section 404(b) of the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 (FAA), which was repealed by the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978. The ACAA prohibits commercial airlines from discriminating against passengers with disabilities. The act was passed by the U.S. Congress in direct response to a narrow interpretation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by the U.S. Supreme Court in U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) v. Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA). In PVA, the Supreme Court held that private, commercial air carriers are not liable under Section 504 because they are not "direct recipients" of federal funding to airports.[1]

The Act was construed to contain an implied private right of action. However, in 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Alexander v. Sandoval,[2] which held that federal courts may not find an implied private right unless a statute gives explicit indication that Congress intended to bestow such a right. In 2004, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit followed the lead of the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which relied on the Sandoval decision to hold that the Act can only be enforced by filing an administrative complaint with the DOT.[3][4]

In 2013, the DOT provided new rules requiring all domestic and foreign air carriers to have accessible websites and kiosks. By December 12, 2015, the core functionality of all air carrier's websites needed to be accessible, and by December 12, 2016, the remaining web pages were required to be accessible.[5]

In 2022, it was announced that the DOT had published the Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights. It (as stated by the DOT) “describes the fundamental rights of air travelers with disabilities under the Air Carrier Access Act and its implementing regulation, 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 382.”[6][7]

Since this act prohibits airlines from discriminating against passengers with disabilities, they must allow them to bring along their service animals. In recent years, people were taking advantage of this act. Delta Air Lines released the statistic that they had seen an 84% increase in animal incidents. Not all of the disability animals that came through the doors of Delta Air Lines, however, were actually service animals.[8] Since December 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) does not include emotional support animals in the Air Carrier Access Act, which is the act that allows service animals to fly on airplanes if they meet requirements.[9] Before December 2020, they did include emotional support animals in their definition of service animals (US Department of Transportation, 2020).[10]


  1. ^ United States Department of Transportation v. Paralyzed Veterans of America, 477 U.S. 597 (1986).
  2. ^ Alexander v. Sandoval 532 U.S. 275 (2001)
  3. ^ Boswell v. SkyWest Airlines, Inc., 361 F.3d 1263 (10th Cir. 2004).
  4. ^ Love v. Delta Air Lines, 310 F.3d 1347 (11th Cir. 2002).
  5. ^ "Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel: Accessibility of Web Sites and Automated Kiosks at U.S. Airports". US Department of Transportation. Retrieved 27 May 2016.
  6. ^ "DOT Announces First-Ever Bill of Rights for Passengers with Disabilities, Calls on Airlines to Seat Families Together Free of Charge | US Department of Transportation".
  7. ^ "Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights | US Department of Transportation".
  8. ^ "More and more "emotional-support animals" are boarding planes". The Economist. September 13, 2018. Retrieved December 18, 2018.
  9. ^ "Service Animals | US Department of Transportation". Retrieved 2022-05-14.
  10. ^ Foster, Amanda (2020-08-08). "Inclusion of Emotional Support Animals as Service Animals Under the ADA: Creating the Right to Use Dogs to Assist People Living with Mental Health Issues". Rochester, NY. doi:10.2139/ssrn.3669792. S2CID 234660726. SSRN 3669792. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)