United Outlines New Accessibility Features for Wheelchair Users

United Airlines has announced new technologies and policies to improve the travel experience for customers who use a wheelchair, including a new digital filter on United.com that helps determine which aircraft can accommodate different sized chairs and refunding the fare difference if a higher-fare flight is needed to accommodate a specific wheelchair size. United expects to launch these new tools early next year.

The new flight filter will enable customers to enter the dimensions of their personal wheelchair as part of the flight search. The search results will prioritize flight options on aircraft with cargo hold doors large enough to accommodate the wheelchair dimensions. The size of aircraft cargo hold doors varies, so some aircraft are better able than others to handle larger motorized wheelchairs, which must travel upright.

If a customer is unable to take a preferred flight because their wheelchair will not fit through the aircraft’s cargo door—and takes a United flight with a higher fare that can accommodate their wheelchair on the same day and between the same origin and destination—the customer may seek a refund of the fare difference by following United’s process, including completing a form after they’ve traveled. United will promptly ensure they receive the difference in fare after review.

Later this year, United will begin a six-month pilot program at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston to explore ways to better accommodate customers in the unlikely event their wheelchair was damaged or delayed while traveling. The program will focus on the timeframe between a customer’s arrival and when United returns the wheelchair or provides an appropriate loaner wheelchair if the original is damaged. United will collaborate with its Accessible Travel Advisory Board to explore several initiatives aimed at improving the airport experience during this challenging period, including providing specialized seating onsite and reimbursing the customer for transportation expenses should they choose to wait at a location other than the airport.

United also entered an agreement earlier this month with the U.S. Department of Transportation to deliver these initiatives through a mutual commitment to increase accessibility and improve the travel experience for customers who require the use of a wheelchair. Other recent measures to improve accessibility include:

  • Providing ramp agents new mobile technology that indicates when a wheelchair is on a flight to ensure they are prepared to receive and load it. The technology also inhibits ramp agents from closing out a flight until they acknowledge that they’ve loaded all wheelchairs.
  • Adding Braille to aircraft interiors in August, helping millions of travelers with visual disabilities more easily navigate the cabin independently. United expects to outfit its entire mainline fleet with Braille by the end of 2026.
  • Redesigning the United mobile app to make it easier to use for people with visual disabilities with increased color contrast reordering how information is displayed and announced to better integrate with the screen reader technologies such as VoiceOver and TalkBack.
  • United’s latest inflight seatback entertainment screens offer accessible features such as closed captioning, text-to-speech controls, magnification, explore-by-touch capabilities, audio-described movies, and more. As part of United Next, the carrier expects to take delivery of about 700 new narrow and wide-body aircraft by the end of 2032, all of which will include the latest in seatback screen entertainment options.
  • Through Bridge, United’s Business Resource Group for people of all abilities, employees help create a workplace environment where everyone can achieve their maximum potential and become an ally for customers with disabilities.

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