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14 CFR Part 382 Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel (Air Carrier Access Act): Preamble and Section-by-Section Analysis (with amendments issued through July 2010)

Note: This preamble to 14 CFR Part 382 includes a section-by-section analysis but may not reflect the regulation text in its entirety. Click here to see the complete regulation.

How can airline personnel help ensure that passengers with service animals are assigned and obtain appropriate seats on the aircraft?

  • Let passengers know the airline’s policy about seat assignments for people with disabilities. For instance: (1) should the passenger request preboarding at the gate? or (2) should the passenger request an advance seat assignment (a priority seat such as a bulkhead seat or aisle seat) up to 24 hours before departure? or (3) should the passenger request an advance seat assignment at the gate on the day of departure? When assigning priority seats, ask the passenger what location best fits his/her needs.

  • Passengers generally know what kinds of seats best suit their service animals. In certain circumstances, passengers with service animals must either be provided their pre-requested priority seats, or if their requested seat location cannot be made available, they must be assigned to other available priority seats of their choice in the same cabin class. Part 382.81(c) requires airlines to provide a bulkhead seat or a seat other than a bulkhead seat at the request of an individual traveling with a service animal.

  • Passengers should comply with airline recommendations or requirements regarding when they should arrive at the gate before a flight. This may vary from airport to airport and airline to airline. Not all airlines announce preboarding for passengers with special needs, although it may be available. If you wish to request preboarding, tell the agent at the gate.

  • A timely request for preboarding by a passenger with a disability must be honored (see sections 382.83(c) and 382.93)

Part 382 does not require carriers to make modifications that would constitute an undue burden or would fundamentally alter their programs (382.13(c)). Therefore, the following are not required in providing accommodations for users of service animals

  • Requiring another passenger to give up all or a most of the space in front of his or her seat to accommodate a service animal. (There is nothing wrong with asking another passenger if the passenger would mind sharing foot space with a service animal, as distinct from telling the passenger that he or she must do so. Indeed, finding a passenger willing to share space is a common, and acceptable, method of finding an appropriate place for someone traveling with a service animal that may not be able to be seated in his or her original seat location.

  • Denying transportation to any individual on a flight in order to provide an accommodation to a passenger with a service animal;

  • Furnishing more than one seat per ticket; and

  • Providing a seat in a class of service other than the one the passenger has purchased. (While a carrier is not required to do so, there could be situations in which the carrier could voluntarily reseat a passenger with a service animal in a different seating class. For example, suppose that the economy cabin is completely full and no alternate seat location in that cabin can be found for a service animal that cannot be seated at the passenger’ original seat location. If the business or first class cabin has vacant space, the carrier could choose to move the passenger and animal into the vacant space, rather than make the passenger and animal take a later flight.)


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