Purdue University Graduate School
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Analyzing the Commercial Air Travel Experience for Passengers with Disabilities

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posted on 2019-01-02, 19:20 authored by Wesley L. MajorWesley L. Major
Airlines are legally required to provide adequate service to passengers with disabilities; this research examines the quality of service provided based on the analysis of airline complaint data and the results of a survey of passengers with disabilities. The provision of adequate service to airline passengers is challenging since passenger counts continue to rise and passengers are increasingly diverse. Airline passengers with disabilities are protected by federal legislation under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), 49 U.S. Code § 41705, which prohibits discriminatory treatment of people with disabilities in air transportation. Regulations outlined in 14 CFR Part 382, Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel, require that airlines and airports are accessible, and require that airline, airport and contract personnel provide appropriate accommodations and services to people with disabilities.

To track operational efficiency and compliance with the ACAA, the Department of Transportation collects data on airline performance. Data are published in monthly and annual reports. One component of these reports is complaint data. Complaints are an important metric because they identify deficiencies in service.

Individual complaints are forwarded to airport and airline service providers for investigation; however, complaint data do not appear to be used to systematically assess the adequacy of service, as evidenced by a disproportionately high and rising number of disability complaints.

The objective of this research is to investigate the provision of air service for passengers with disabilities. This investigation includes identification of the regulations that affect commercial air travel for passengers with disabilities, an examination of disability-related complaints, specifically the number and rate of these complaints compared to complaints for all travelers, and an assessment of service based on a survey of passengers with disabilities.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Aviation and Transportation Technology

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Sarah M. Hubbard

Additional Committee Member 2

Thomas Q. Carney

Additional Committee Member 3

Julius C. Keller

Additional Committee Member 4

Darcy M. Bullock