Following an investigation by the federal government into a complaint by a disability rights group, United Airlines has committed to improving air travel for passengers in wheelchairs.
United and the Transportation Department said on Thursday that the airline will add a filter to the website’s booking tool to assist customers in finding trips where the aircraft can more easily accommodate their wheelchairs.
Some aircraft’s cargo doors are too tiny to accommodate a motorized wheelchair with ease.
Additionally, if a passenger needs to take a more expensive ticket to make room for their wheelchair, the airline commits to repaying the fare difference.
The adjustments should be implemented, according to United, by the beginning of 2019. After Engracia Figueroa complained that her specially constructed wheelchair was harmed on a United flight in 2021, a settlement was reached on Wednesday.
Figueroa passed away three months later, and her family and attorney blamed her five-hour stint in an improperly fitted manual wheelchair for her sores, skin grafts, and need for emergency surgery.
In order to expand accessibility on commercial aircraft, Paralyzed Veterans of America and other organizations have used Figueroa’s passing as justification for new federal legislation.
The settlement states that between 2019 and 2022, airlines mishandled 32,640 wheelchairs and scooters on domestic flights, or 1.45% of them.
A slightly higher rate of 1.2%, third-best among the airlines tracked in the Transportation Department’s monthly consumer report on air travel, was achieved by United and its United Express partners.
The government reported that among the top five airline handicap complaints it receives are claims of broken and delayed wheelchairs and scooters.
In accordance with the settlement, United said it will launch a trial at George Bush International Airport later this year to provide assistance to travelers whose wheelchairs are damaged or delayed, including paying for transportation if the client prefers not to wait at the airport.