The February 2020 Air Travel Consumer Report released today contains data on the number of wheelchairs transported and mishandled by airlines during the first full calendar year of reporting, 2019.
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 2019 through December 2019. Delta Air Lines carried the largest number of wheelchairs and scooters in 2019, with a total of 208,547.
Together, all reporting carriers transported a total of 685,792 wheelchairs and scooters during the 2019 calendar year. This total falls in line with my earlier estimate, that more than half a million passengers travel with their own wheelchair each year.
Although these numbers are substantial, disabled people are still underrepresented among airline passengers. Full-time wheelchair users account for more than 1% of the U.S. population, but represent less than 0.1% of the more than 825 million passengers enplaned by reporting carriers last year.
As an increasing number of barriers deny disabled people the opportunity to fly safely and with dignity, greater action by governments, regulators and accessibility advocates is necessary. I will not rest my advocacy until disabled people achieve the same freedom of movement granted to non-disabled people. We won’t have adequate inclusion until the total number of personal wheelchairs and scooters carried on airplanes is measured in the millions, and the world is opened to everyone.
Keep advocating and keep flying!
Note: Data for the number of mishandled wheelchairs and scooters was included in the February 2020 ATCR, but due to reporting errors by American Airlines and Southwest Airlines in 2019, more reliable data is included in my 2020 Ranking of the Best U.S. Airlines for Wheelchair Users.