Access to Air Travel, Federal Laws Covering Air Travel Access, for People with Hearing Loss

Two laws apply:

  • The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) of 1986
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990

The laws are enforced by the Department of Transportation.

The Air Carriers Access Act applies to all United States air carriers providing air transportation and to all United States terminal facilities operated by United States air carriers. The law covers airport facilities that are owned, leased, or operated by an air carrier at an air carrier airport, including parking and ground transportation facilities. It covers accessible terminal design, ticketing systems, and outbound and inbound baggage facilities.

Technically, the ACAA rules do not apply to foreign air carriers or to airport facilities outside the United States. However, the DOT has been slowly applying the ACAA provisions to codeshare situations where there is a U.S. code but the flight is operated by a foreign airline. If the ticket was sold with a U.S carrier flight number, then the ACAA applies. There is pending rulemaking that would actually state that ACAA applies for foreign carriers in a codeshare relationship with a U.S. carrier or on flight operating to/from the U.S.

In 1988, the Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Non-Discrimination on the Basis of Handicap in Air Travel. HLAA submitted written comments and gave oral testimony on the barriers to access facing people with hearing loss. The final rule (14 CFR Part 382) was issued in March 1990.

The law states that safety videos should be open captioned, TTYs available for reservations and information, and it includes provisions for hearing dogs.

The Americans with Disabilities Act provides civil rights protection to individuals with disabilities in the areas of employment, public accommodations, state and local government and telecommunications. Airport operators, rather than air carriers, are charged with making public areas in airport facilities accessible to travelers with disabilities.
Airports operated by public entities are covered by Title II of the ADA. If they are operated as part of a program receiving federal financial assistance, they are covered by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and have to follow the "program accessibility" criteria outlined by the Department of Justice.

Airports with private funding have to follow Title III and the ADA accessibility guidelines for new construction and renovation, as well as for barrier removal and provision of auxiliary aids and services. Terminals are treated as public accommodations as in Title II and Title III of the ADA, and thus have the same requirements for restaurants, retails stores and telephones. TTYs should be anywhere that phones are made available for public use, including in airline "clubs."


Sending in Complaints and Compliments About Air Travel

The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) now has an online form that’s quick and easy to use to file a complaint regarding air travel. If you have access to a computer, you can fill out the form and send it to them quickly. What you need to tell them:

  • Whether you were the passenger or if you are filling out the form for someone else
  • Your name
  • Your contact information, including either email address or phone
  • Airline
  • Flight Date
  • Flight Itinerary (destination cities and flight number)
  • Description of the problem

That’s all you need to start the process. You can find the DOT’s Air Travel Complaint/Comment Form:

Remember, air carriers must ensure that people who have a hearing loss have timely access to information that the carriers provide to other passengers.

You must identify yourself as a person with a hearing loss.

Airlines must provide you with information about:

  • Ticketing, flight delays, schedule changes, aircraft changes
  • Connections, flight check-in gate assignments
  • Checking and claiming of baggage
  • Safety briefings presented to passengers on airlines
  • Warnings to passengers to use the restrooms more than half an hour before arrival at Regan Washington National Airport

File your complaint today!


Send a Compliment

When we asked people for their experiences on airlines, HLAA heard from many about the stress of flying with a hearing loss. However, we also heard from a number of people who felt they were well taken care of by the airlines. Complaints are not the only way to be heard. When an airline does well, let them know that too. Send complaints or compliments directly to the Customer Relations Department of the airline. Addresses for the airlines can be found at

Whether it’s a complaint or a compliment, let your voice be heard!


General information about accessible transportation is at U.S. Department of Transportation/Accessibility