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DOT Issues Guidance Documents to Prevent Airline Discrimination

Friday, January 13, 2017


WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today issued two guidance documents emphasizing that federal law guarantees all passengers the right to fly free from discrimination.  The documents supersede prior non-discrimination guidance issued by the Department and were developed in collaboration with representatives of airlines and civil rights organizations.

The first document, Guidance for Airline Personnel on Nondiscrimination in Air Travel, contains example scenarios to help airline employees and contractors understand their legal obligation not to discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, or ancestry in air travel.   The second document, Passengers’ Right to Fly Free from Discrimination, uses a question-and-answer format to assist the flying public understand their rights when flying on commercial airlines.

“DOT is committed to protecting the civil rights of all passengers, regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, or ancestry,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.  “These guidance documents will help passengers understand their rights and help airline employees avoid behavior that violates the law.”   

“The goal of ensuring the security of our national air transportation system is consistent with our nation’s longstanding civil rights laws,” said Acting General Counsel Molly Moran.  “These guidance documents seek to ensure equal treatment of all air travelers by educating air travelers and providing airline employees the necessary tools to make fact-based decisions about what constitutes threatening or suspicious behavior in compliance with the law.”

In November 2016, the Department began reporting more detailed information about discrimination complaints that it receives in its monthly Air Travel Consumer Report.  The report now specifically identifies the numbers of complaints by protected class: race, color, national origin, religion, sex, or ancestry/ethnicity.  Prior reports listed only the total number of discrimination-related complaints sent to the Department.  The enhanced reporting is intended to provide more transparency regarding the number of complaints that the Department receives in each of the protected classes.

DOT’s Office of General Counsel’s investigates all complaints alleging discriminatory treatment by airline personnel and pursues enforcement cases against airlines for unlawful discrimination.  Members of the public who feel they have been the subject of discriminatory actions or treatment by airlines may file a complaint with the Department at

The Guidance for Airline Personnel on Nondiscrimination in Air Travel and Passengers’ Right to Fly Free from Discrimination are available at