Know Your Air Travel Rights

Additional assistance is available for travelers with medical conditions — it's the law. 

3 min read
In this article
  • To ensure that people with disabilities are not discriminated against in air travel, Congress passed the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA).
  • Under the ACAA, all domestic and international flights with the United States as the destination or origination are required to provide certain accommodations, free of charge, to people with disabilities, including those with CF.

Accommodations by Choice

When flying, special accommodations are available if needed, including wheelchair assistance and pre-boarding. These accommodations can be particularly helpful if you tire easily — some airports require lots of walking, your baggage might be too heavy for you or you need more time boarding the plane. If you request an accommodation, the airline must provide it to you, free of charge. However, it is important to keep in mind that just because an airline offers you an accommodation, that does not mean you have to accept it. For example, an airline must allow you and your travel companion to pre-board the plane but cannot require it.

Pre-Flight Notifications

Under most circumstances, you are not required to tell the airline that you will be flying or will need any special accommodations. However, it is often a good idea to let the airline know in advance. That way, if you request a wheelchair, for example, you will know that one is reserved for you. There are specific circumstances in which you must tell the airline about your health needs. These circumstances include: 

  • Traveling with an electronic wheelchair or other device with special batteries
  • Requiring oxygen during the flight 

If these conditions apply to you and you do not notify the airline, it may deny you travel for failing to inform it ahead of time.

A Medical Certificate 

A medical certificate is a written statement from your CF care center saying that you are healthy enough to fly. An airline may request a medical certificate from you if you: 

  • Require oxygen during the flight 
  • Have a medical condition that causes the airline to have reasonable doubt that you can complete the flight safely 

When in doubt, it is best to have a medical certificate just in case. Your CF care center can provide one for you.

If You Need to File a Complaint

If you think the airline is not following the ACAA, ask to speak to a Complaints Resolution Officer (CRO). All airlines are required to have a CRO available in person or by phone to resolve issues as they arise. If you are not satisfied with the airline's response, you can also contact the Department of Transportation's consumer protection hotline at 800-778-4838 (voice) or H (TTY, for the hearing and speech impaired).

Share this article
Traveling with CF
Have questions? We’re here to help. Call us at 1-800-FIGHT CF

Mon - Thu, 9 am - 7 pm ET
Fri, 9 am - 3 pm ET


More Ways To Get Help