The Biden administration is introducing a first-ever “bill of rights” aimed at helping ensure people with disabilities have a smoother experience when flying.

The 16-page document issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation this month is described as an “easy-to-use summary of the fundamental rights of air travelers with disabilities under the Air Carrier Access Act.”

It is designed to “empower air travelers with disabilities to understand and assert their rights, and help ensure that U.S. and foreign air carriers and their contractors uphold those rights,” the Transportation Department said.

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The document details 10 different rights that should be afforded to airline passengers with disabilities including the right to be treated with dignity and respect, the right to accessible airport facilities, the right to receive assistance at airports and on aircraft, the right to travel with an assistive device or service animal and the right to receive seating accommodations, among others.

The bill of rights is a living document, according to the federal agency, that will be updated as regulations evolve.

Officials clarified that it “does not expand or restrict the rights of air travelers with disabilities. Rather, it provides a convenient summary of existing law.”

Creation of the bill of rights was mandated under a 2018 reauthorization of funding for the Federal Aviation Administration. It was developed with feedback from the Air Carrier Access Act Advisory Committee, which includes passengers with disabilities as well as representatives of national disability organizations, air carriers, airport operators, contractor service providers, aircraft manufacturers and wheelchair manufactures. 

The Transportation Department said that information in the document applies to all flights run by U.S. airlines as well as flights to or from the U.S. that are operated by foreign carriers. Federal officials note that there are some exceptions to airlines’ obligations as described in the bill of rights in order to comply with safety and security laws and in cases where airlines have been approved to use an alternative method to comply.

The bill of rights was announced alongside a handful of other developments intended to ease airline travel at a time when the Transportation Department says that consumer complaints against airlines are up over 300% compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Today’s announcements are the latest steps toward ensuring an air travel system that works for everyone,” said Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. “Whether you’re a parent expecting to sit together with your young children on a flight, a traveler with a disability navigating air travel or a consumer traveling by air for the first time in a while, you deserve safe, accessible, affordable and reliable airline service.”

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