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IATA Forms Mobility Device Handling Task Force

Wheelchair Service in Airport Terminal. Window View with Sunlight.

After numerous cases of airlines restricting travelers’ options because of their mobility devices, the International Air Transport Association is forming a group to create better solutions. The organization is forming a Mobility Aids Action Group, with the goal of improving the transportation of mobility aids around the world.

As travel starts to return, one major issue airlines continue to contend with has come to light: the transportation of mobility devices. After two high-profile cases in 2021, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced the formation of a Mobility Aids Action Group, with the goal of discovering a better way to transport wheelchairs and other devices on commercial aircraft.

Group First of Its Kind to Explore Mobility Device Issues for Airlines

According to a 2021 global media day presentation, over one billion individuals around the world experience some form of disability. However, when it comes to rules governing disability in air transport, there is a large patchwork of regulators with different approaches. The result is a lack of parity for disabled travelers – especially those who rely on a mobility device.

The group is the first of its kind among international aviation organizations. The task force will be made up of accessibility organizations, airlines, ground service provides, airports and mobility aid manufacturers. Together, they will be tasked to “examine and improve the transport journey of mobility aids, including wheelchairs, with the objective of improving the handling of this vital equipment for travelers with disabilities.” Their findings will be shared among airlines, with the goal of improving the airline experience for disabled travelers.

“Every year, thousands of wheelchairs are transported safely by air. However, damage or loss is still occurring. And when it does, it is devastating to the passenger as these devices are more than equipment—they are extensions of their body and essential to their independence,” Willie Walsh, director general of IATA, said in a statement. “This is why we want to do something about it on a global level, not through setting up a talking shop, but by bringing the key groups together to take practical action.”

The formation of the group marks the first time mobility aid manufacturers have been asked to participate on an aviation-focused group. Their plan is to met regularly and offer advice and support on best practices to air carriers.

Mobility Device Group First Major Initiative for Walsh’s Leadership

The formation of the Mobility Aids Action Group is the first major project under Walsh’s leadership of the IATA. The former head of International Airlines Group exited from the conglomerate in September 2020 to become director general of IATA, being replaced at IAG by former Iberia CEO Luis Gallego.

Nandkishore July 9, 2021

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