Air Carrier Access Act | 49 U.S.C. § 41705

Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals, Emotional Support Animals and the ACAA

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  • Guidance concerning service animals travel to the United Kingdom

  • Service Animal Guidance



Air Carrier Access Act

Implementing Regulations
14 CFR Part 382 Department of Transportation

The Air Carrier Access Act prohibits discrimination in air transportation by domestic and foreign air carriers against qualified individuals with physical or mental impairments. It applies only to air carriers that provide regularly scheduled services for hire to the public. Requirements address a wide range of issues including boarding assistance and certain accessibility features in newly built aircraft and new or altered airport facilities. People may enforce rights under the Air Carrier Access Act by filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation, or by bringing a lawsuit in Federal court. For more information or to file a complaint, contact:

Aviation Consumer Protection Division, C-75 U.S. Department of Transportation 1200 New Jersey Avenue, S.E. Washington, D.C. 20590 (202) 366-2220 (voice) (202) 366-0511 (TTY) (800) 778-4838 (voice) (800) 455-9880 (TTY)

Congress enacted the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) in 1986. The statute prohibits discrimination in airline service on the basis of disability. Following a lengthy rulemaking process that included a regulatory negotiation involving representatives of the airline industry and disability community, the Department of Transportation issued a final ACAA rule in March 1990. Since that time, the Department has amended the rule ten times.

Enforcement of the ACAA is limited to the investigation and discretion of the Secretary of the Department of Transportation.  ACAA disability discrimination complaints can be filed Department of Transportation, Office of Civil Rights or by calling (202) 366-4648.  Individuals can not sue airlines directly under the protections of the ACAA. The Department has developed a Service Animal Definition Matrix used for considering ACAA disability discrimination violations related to medical assistance animals. The Department of Transportation’s definitions for medical assistance animals differ significantly  from the Department of Justice (DOJ),  the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

49 U.S. Code § 41705 Discrimination Against Handicapped Individuals

(a) In General.-In providing air transportation, an air carrier, including (subject to section 40105(b)) any foreign air carrier, may not discriminate against an otherwise qualified individual on the following grounds:

(1) the individual has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

(2) the individual has a record of such an impairment.

(3) the individual is regarded as having such an impairment.

(b) Each Act Constitutes Separate Offense.-For purposes of section 46301, a separate violation occurs under this section for each individual act of discrimination prohibited by subsection (a).


(c) Investigation of Complaints.-

(1) In general.-The Secretary shall investigate each complaint of a violation of subsection (a).

(2) Publication of data.-The Secretary shall publish disability-related complaint data in a manner comparable to other consumer complaint data.

(3) Review and report.-The Secretary shall regularly review all complaints received by air carriers alleging discrimination on the basis of disability and shall report annually to Congress on the results of such review.

(4) Technical assistance.-Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this subsection, the Secretary shall-

(A) implement a plan, in consultation with the Department of Justice, the United States Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, and the National Council on Disability, to provide technical assistance to air carriers and individuals with disabilities in understanding the rights and responsibilities set forth in this section; and

(B) ensure the availability and provision of appropriate technical assistance manuals to individuals and entities with rights or responsibilities under this section.