Jun 04, 2023

Delta Developing Seat To Accommodate Wheelchairs In Flight

A subsidiary of Delta Air Lines is working on a new seat that would enable people with disabilities to stay in their power wheelchairs on airliners. (Kent D. Johnson/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Delta is unveiling a first-of-its-kind seat that would allow passengers with disabilities to remain in their wheelchairs on airplane flights.

A prototype of the new seat debuted this week at the Aircraft Interiors Expo, an annual gathering of airline leaders and suppliers in Hamburg, Germany.

Delta Flight Products, a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines that engineers aircraft interiors for airlines around the world, is working with U.K.-based Air4All, a consortium focused on accessibility in air travel, to develop the specialized seat which converts to a wheelchair restraint that can accommodate a power chair.

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The new seat allows airlines to maintain the design of their aircraft cabin while "providing access to headrest, center console tray tables and cocktail table that adjust to serve passengers with wheelchairs in place," Delta Flight Products said. It also offers passengers with disabilities an easier time getting on and off airplanes.

The new seat will be sent for final design and validation after this week's expo, officials said. Further testing and certification are necessary before the seat could be deployed.

"This product remains in its early development stages, with approximately 18 months of work and reviews ahead, but Delta will keep a keen eye on the progress of this concept being driven by our subsidiary — as we are always looking for ways to improve the travel experience for all customers," said Emma Johnson, a spokesperson for Delta Air Lines, in a statement.

The move comes as federal officials have indicated that they are working toward requiring airlines to accommodate passengers with disabilities in their wheelchairs in flight. Last year, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said his agency is planning to issue a rule in the "months and years ahead."

In 2022 alone, Transportation Department data shows that airlines mishandled 11,389 wheelchairs and scooters, up from 7,239 the year prior.

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