Airlines that best serve passengers with limited mobility

Published 5:00 pm Friday, August 26, 2022

Svitlana Hulko // Shutterstock

Airlines that best serve passengers with limited mobility

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 13% of U.S. adults have mobility disabilities, including significant trouble walking or climbing stairs. These limitations could require the use of mobility aids, such as wheelchairs or scooters, when traveling through airports or boarding flights.

Airline travel can be a challenging experience even at the best of times. Travelers may face flight delays or cancellations, long airport check-in lines or TSA screening lines, congested terminals, and other issues boarding or deplaning flights. These stressors are compounded for passengers with limited mobility, who have additional needs to ensure a safe and pleasant travel experience.

In 1986, passengers with disabilities gained legal protections against discrimination from airlines with the passage of the Air Carrier Access Act. This act ensures travelers with disabilities have equal access to flights, while also requiring airport facilities and airplanes to provide necessary accommodations and properly trained staff. In particular, the act requires airlines to assist passengers who have mobility impairments with boarding and deplaning, including handling their wheelchairs or scooters.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

How well do airlines adhere to these guidelines to serve their passengers with mobility limitations? Bounce collected information from the Air Travel Consumer Reports for the first quarter of 2022 to rank airlines based on how often they mishandle wheelchairs and scooters. Information for this analysis was released by the U.S. Department of Transportation using data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Seventeen airlines were ranked based on the percent of wheelchairs and scooters mishandled. An item is considered mishandled when a customer files a formal complaint after a flight. The total number of wheelchairs and scooters mishandled in the first quarter of 2022 was 2,894 out of 195,965, or about 1.5 wheelchairs per 100 boarded. Numbers displayed are rounded to the first decimal point.

Read on to learn which airlines best serve passengers with limited mobility.

A man wearing mask and gloves waits in a wheelchair to board a flight run by JetBlue

ESTAILOVE ST-VAL // Getty Images

#17. JetBlue Airways

– Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 372 (5.1% of those boarded)
– Total serviced: 7,318

Four Spirit Airlines planes in a row

YES Market Media // Shutterstock

#16. Spirit Airlines

– Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 132 (4.8%)
– Total wheelchairs serviced: 2,724

Wheelchair at an airline check-in counter

VTT Studio // Shutterstock

#15. PSA Airlines

– Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 49 (2.2%)
– Total wheelchairs serviced: 2,262

Envoy ramp workers bringing the aircraft to the gate

LJ Jones // Shutterstock

#14. Envoy Air

– Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 59 (2.1%)
– Total wheelchairs serviced: 2,805

Three men check in at the American Airlines customer service counter

WKanadpon // Shutterstock

#13. American Airlines

– Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 495 (2.0%)
– Total wheelchairs serviced: 24,562

Frontier Airlines with aircraft at gate

nyker // Shutterstock

#12. Frontier Airlines

– Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 132 (2.0%)
– Total wheelchairs serviced: 6,643

Caretaker pushes an elderly woman on a wheelchair in airport terminal

Bignai // Shutterstock

#11. Hawaiian Airlines

– Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 35 (1.5%)
– Total wheelchairs serviced: 2,396

Southwest Airlines passenger pushed through a terminal

Robert Alexander // Getty Images

#10. Southwest Airlines

– Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 588 (1.3%)
– Total wheelchairs serviced: 44,030

Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-790 aircraft airborne

Philip Pilosian // Shutterstock

#9. Alaska Airlines

– Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 93 (1.3%)
– Total wheelchairs serviced: 7,088

An Embraer 190AR of Republic Airways taxiing for departure

Austin Deppe // Shutterstock

#8. Republic Airways

– Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 45 (1.3%)
– Total wheelchairs serviced: 3,522

A United Airlines employee transfers wheelchairs

NurPhoto // Getty Images

#7. United Airlines

– Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 303 (1.2%)
– Total wheelchairs serviced: 25,990

Mature lady on wheelchair waiting in airport hall with airplane in the background

Olena Yakobchuk // Shutterstock

#6. Mesa Airlines

– Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 23 (1.1%)
– Total wheelchairs serviced: 2,078

Chair seats in an airport waiting area marked for passengers with disabilities

RandomMoment // Shutterstock

#5. Endeavor Air

– Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 39 (1.0%)
– Total wheelchairs serviced: 3,806

SkyWest Bombardier CRJ-200 airplane in the sky

Markus Mainka // Shutterstock

#4. SkyWest Airlines

– Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 109 (1.0%)
– Total wheelchairs serviced: 11,354

Delta Air Lines gate inside of Delta Airline Terminal

Leonard Zhukovsky // Shutterstock

#3. Delta Air Lines

– Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 395 (1.0%)
– Total wheelchairs serviced: 41,393

Chairs reserved for those with disabilities in an airport

alexfan32 // Shutterstock

#2. Horizon Air

– Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 9 (0.4%)
– Total wheelchairs serviced: 2,055

Allegiant airplane approaching airport for landing

Angel DiBilio // Shutterstock

#1. Allegiant Air

– Total wheelchairs/scooters mishandled: 16 (0.3%)
– Total wheelchairs serviced: 5,939

This story originally appeared on Bounce and was produced and
distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.