The February 2021 Air Travel Consumer Report released today contains data on the number of wheelchairs transported and mishandled by airlines during the 2020 calendar year, the second full calendar year for which we have data on disabled airline passengers.
The chart above lists the total number of wheelchairs and scooters carried by each of the 10 major U.S. airlines and their branded codeshare partners from January 2020 through December 2020. Delta Air Lines carried the largest number of wheelchairs and scooters in 2020, with a total of 69,947.
Together, the reporting carriers transported a total of 268,676 wheelchairs and scooters during the 2020 calendar year. This was a sharp decrease of approximately 61% from the 2019 total, when more than 685,000 passengers traveled with their personal wheelchair.
The reported data indicates that disabled people are still underrepresented among airline passengers. Full-time wheelchair users account for more than 1% of the U.S. population, but represented less than 0.1% of the more than 354 million passengers enplaned by reporting carriers last year. This data suggests that there is an enormous opportunity for growth and, as airlines become more accessible, larger numbers of disabled people will take to the skies.
With just 354 million total passenger enplanements (disabled and nondisabled people) in 2020, the airline industry saw approximately 60% fewer passengers on the year. This data point suggests that disabled people reduced their travel during the coronavirus pandemic at a rate consistent with that of nondisabled people and the industry as a whole.
In the coming months, as coronavirus vaccination programs expand and disabled people resume their travels, airlines, hotels and destinations should pay close attention to the group — it is sure to play an important role in the travel industry’s post-pandemic recovery.