EB Medical Supplies Fly Free!

Did you know that medical supplies fly free? Under current law, airlines are not permitted to charge passengers baggage fees to check in bags that are exclusively packing medical supplies on commercial passenger flights.  To take advantage of this right, EB airline travelers need to make sure to comply with the specific airline carrier’s rules and procedures for such baggage. It is a good idea to contact your airline before your flight departure to speak with a representative about their procedures for checking in medical supplies for your trip. Further background about the relevant law and accompanying regulations are below:

In 1986, Congress passed and the President signed into law the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). The ACAA guarantees that people with disabilities receive consistent and nondiscriminatory treatment during air travel and requires air carriers to accommodate the needs of passengers with disabilities. The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) has published a brief guide to help passengers with developmental disabilities understand their air travel rights. You can find this helpful guide here.

Regarding EB medical supplies and medications, the USDOT has expressed that airlines should not charge fees to travelers packing for “assistive devices” as long as specific medical items are packed in a separate bag with no other non-medical items. If a passenger has assistive devices in a bag which also contains clothes and other non-assistive device items, then the airline may charge the traveler for the bag. Other important considerations include whether the medical items are related to a disability, will the traveler use the items on this particular trip, could the items be purchased at the traveled-to location, and/or are the number of packed medical items in proportion with the time the traveler will be away from their home. For example, if the traveler is packing a year’s worth of medical supplies when he or she will only be traveling for a week, the airline is permitted to make a determination that such medical items represent an undue burden and require an associated cost to fly them. The bottom line is that if the medical items are packed exclusively for the particular trip and are of an appropriate quantity that matches the length of the trip, the traveler has a legal right to request the airline to waive the typical baggage fees ordinarily charged for the passenger’s air travel.

Other helpful resources for air travel for disabled travelers include questions 44-46 in the USDOT’s Frequently Asked Questions, Guidance for Dialysis Machines applicable to other situations, and Air Travel Page.