Opposing View: Department of Transportation prioritizes airline interests over the rights of travelers
| Opinion contributor
I don’t think anyone who travels by plane these days would describe it as a pleasurable experience. But for people with disabilities, the air travel misery is exponential.
Try taking a red eye from Los Angeles to Boston without using the bathroom because the toilets are inaccessible. Or finding your wheelchair broken upon arrival. Or missing the flight completely because you are deaf and could not hear the announcement that your plane was moved to a different gate. These are all common experiences for travelers with disabilities.
Regulations issued last week by the Department of Transportation (DOT) will limit service animals to dogs, require advance notice and documentation to travel with a service animal, and open the door for airlines to ban emotional support animals.
These changes will only make the experiences of travelers with disabilities worse. Considering the airlines’ abysmal record of mistreating people with disabilities — passengers filed nearly 31,000 disability-related complaints against U.S. carriers in 2018 — I have no faith that they will administer this new system fairly.
Imagine getting a phone call that your mother is seriously ill. In that distressing situation, with the new DOT regulations, you would have to leave your emotional support animal behind. Service dogs can be brought along but only if you have the right paperwork and trust that an industry notorious for ignoring customers’ circumstances will accommodate you.
Yes, there are people who don’t rely on emotional support animals who have taken advantage of the law in order to avoid the fee for their pet. But people with disabilities should not have to pay the price for other people’s malfeasance.
Effectively, the new rule makes it so that some people with disabilities can no longer travel by air in the same way as everyone else.
The regulations are fundamentally unfair, prioritizing corporate interests over the rights of Americans with disabilities. We believe that the provisions dealing with emotional support animals should be rescinded.
Curt Decker is the executive director of the National Disability Rights Network.