Passengers can sort United Airlines flights for planes that accommodate their wheelchair

United Airlines is officially rolling out new accessibility features Thursday that it says will make flying easier for wheelchair users.

The updates, which the airline previously announced, include the ability to find flights that are the best equipped to handle their mobility equipment by inputting the dimensions of their wheelchair in a filter on the booking page both on the airline’s app and website. The flight results will then prioritize the itineraries with planes that are best able to carry the mobility device.

“The more we know about a customer’s device, the more likely their experience will be a good one – from booking and check-in to the flight itself,” Linda Jojo, executive vice president and chief customer officer for United, said in a statement: “These new tools and policies also set our employees up for success, especially those working on the ramp or at the gate.”

Demonstration of United Airlines' new wheelchair dimension flight search filter.
Demonstration of United Airlines' new wheelchair dimension flight search filter.

Jojo told USA TODAY customers with disabilities will also be able to apply for partial refunds if the flights that are best able to accommodate their equipment are not the cheapest option on the route.

“Often, there are certain types of aircraft that we have where the cargo doors are not conducive to loading the larger personal wheelchairs,” she said.

The updates come out of a partnership United has with the United Spinal Association, a disability advocacy group.

“We hope with this partnership to continue looking for opportunities to improve travel for wheelchair users,” Vincenzo Piscopo, chief executive officer and president of United Spinal Association, told USA TODAY. “My hope is that they’ll continue with us in that journey, taking our feedback as we continue reaching that goal that any wheelchair user has a travel experience as close as possible to the experience that the rest of the community,”

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Jojo acknowledged that air travel is not always accessible to people with disabilities and that there is more work to be done.

“We’re finding the best way to make this travel more safe and accessible to people who are in wheelchairs is talking to people who are actually in wheelchairs,” she said.

USA TODAY has reported on how difficult air travel can be for wheelchair users. Over the course of 2023, more than 30 disabled travelers shared their stories of wheelchair damage by airlines. On average, U.S. airlines damage or destroy 10,000 to 15,000 mobility devices every year, about 1.5% of the total number they transport.

United Airlines also announced Thursday that it is initiating a pilot program at Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport to assist passengers whose devices are damaged more quickly.

For at least the next six months, the airline will make specialized cushions available to install on its loaner chairs if a traveler’s personal wheelchair is unusable or unavailable after their flight.

“The pilot program focuses on the timeframe between a customer’s arrival and when United returns the wheelchair or provides an appropriate loaner wheelchair if the original is damaged,” a statement from the airline said. “United is currently testing specialized, adjustable Permobil cushions for loaner wheelchairs at its Houston hub that better match the customer’s needs and improve comfort and stability. The airline is also reimbursing customers for transportation expenses should they choose to wait at a location other than the airport.”

Zach Wichter is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in New York. You can reach him at

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: United Airlines unveils flight filters for wheelchair users