New Policy Restricts Flights for Wheelchair Users

On average, I fly two to three times a year. Within the last six months, it has been difficult to book flights due to the size of my power wheelchair. Due to recent policy changes by the Department of Transportation, airlines are no longer required to accommodate power wheelchairs on smaller aircrafts if the chair does fit within the cargo space dimensions. This causes difficulties for many wheelchair users, who can only book flights on larger aircrafts.

The Struggle to Find Flights

photo of airplane
Photo by Matt Hardy on

I am from the Metro Detroit area in Michigan. I have a friend from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We frequently fly back and forth to visit one another. When I fly, I prefer to fly with Delta airlines. Delta has informed me that due to size of my wheelchair I must fly on a flight with an Airbus aircraft.

In October, I booked a flight to go to Milwaukee for New Year’s Eve. I contacted the Delta disability services line to confirm my flight and power wheelchair. I was told by the customer service representative that I had to change my flights to flights with an Airbus aircraft to accommodate my power wheelchair. At the time, the flights with airbuses were red eyes. While these accommodations were not ideal, at least they were available to me. 

Limited Flight Accommodations

As of April 2022, ALL flights between Milwaukee and Detroit (and the surrounding airports in Chicago) are flown with a Boeing 717 (a smaller aircraft) for the foreseeable future. Thus, no flight accommodations are available to me.

I have been planning to attend the Abilities Expo in Chicago in June for over a year. Now, due to the new cargo space policy, we must go to the Abilities Expo in Dallas in December. We even checked flights for the Abilities Expo in Miami in November, but no airlines had flights from Michigan with airbuses.

I understand that my chair does not fit on smaller planes and I need to fly on a larger aircraft. Yet, flights with larger aircrafts are not offered in all locations, limiting my right to fly. 

About Isabella Bullock: Isabella, or Izzie for short, is an employment specialist for the Center of Independent Living. She is an iced coffee enthusiast who enjoys getting lost in a good book. Click here to learn more about Isabella.

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