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American Airlines raises weight limit rule, allowing power wheelchairs

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Ken Fisher of American Airlines talks about safety measures and precautions the company is taking at Sky Harbor Airport to help keep people safe.

Arizona Republic

American Airlines has reversed a policy change that would have prohibited some motorized wheelchairs on smaller regional jets due to their weight.

American had previously set a weight limit of 400 pounds on its Embraer and 300 pounds on Canadair regional jets. 

That created a problem for passengers who use motorized wheelchairs, which can often exceed 400 pounds due to the heavy batteries they need to operate.

American only uses regional aircraft at more than 100 airports nationwide.

John Morris, an advocate for travelers with disabilities, wrote in a late October blog post that when he checked in for a flight from Gainesville, Florida, to Roswell, New Mexico, via Dallas, American wouldn’t let him board with his motorized wheelchair, which weighs 450 pounds.

Morris wrote that he had flown 50 flights with a motorized wheelchair, including 21 times on American.

American Airlines has done away with a policy that placed a weight limit on wheelchairs flying on smaller regional jets like the Embraer E170. (Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren for USA TODAY)

“Flying isn’t new to me and I have taken my power wheelchair on regional jets countless times,” he wrote.

He calculated that the weight restriction would prevent many wheelchair users from flying American planes to 130 regional airports nationwide, including airports such as Roswell, which are served solely by American.

“This means that large swaths of the United States could now be inaccessible to power wheelchair users on American Airlines, creating an air transportation ‘desert,’ ” Morris wrote.let 

In a statement, American spokesperson Stacy Day said the airline had dropped its “conservative” weight limits for the smaller aircraft. The new guidance, she said, is approved by the Federal Aviation Administration and will allow the airline to safely transport power wheelchairs and mobility devices.

“We apologize for the confusion this has caused, and we value the feedback and outreach we’ve received from our community partners and customers in recent weeks,” she said. “We are committed to learning from this as we redouble our focus on improving the travel experience for our customers with disabilities.”

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