Advancing Accessibility in Air Travel

June 27, 2024

New designs that have the potential to revolutionize air travel for passengers with disabilities by allowing them to fly in their own wheelchairs were unveiled last month by Delta Airlines and Collins Aerospace at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany.

Delta’s first-class prototype. Photo Credit: Delta Tech Ops

Delta’s new prototype is an enhanced version of its Air4All wheelchair securement system, a convertible first-class seat was designed last year. It accommodates both manual and power wheelchairs, and provides space for tilting and reclining for pressure relief.

Delta single-class prototype. Photo Credit: Delta Tech Ops

Delta also introduced an economy-class version, designed for single-class airlines like Southwest and Frontier. Featuring a 36-inch-wide securement area created by adjacent foldable middle and aisle seats, the design is compatible with nearly all manual and power wheelchairs.

Delta’s accessible lavatory prototype. Photo Credit: Delta Tech Ops

Delta has also designed a new accessible lavatory to be located near the entrance of the plane. It provides enough space for a passenger and two assistants, and is equipped with overhead grab bar for easier transfers and touchless controls for adjusting and flushing the toilet.

Photo Credit: Collins Aerospace

The Collins Aerospace prototype is designed for a Boeing 737 and features a wheelchair securement area that fits seamlessly into existing cabin layouts, utilizing space currently designated for closets and bulkhead walls. While the concept accommodates manual and power wheelchair users, the securement space is only partially integrated into the passenger cabin, posing potential challenges for travelers requiring personal care attendants.

Delta and Collins Aerospace are both finalizing their designs and seeking Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification, with Delta already in the application process. They aim to install these systems on commercial aircraft soon, promising a future for accessible air travel.

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