US Airways has been fined $1.2 million by the U.S. Department of Transportation after the DOT reviewed approximately 300 complaints filed by passengers who use wheelchairs. This is the largest fine ever assessed by the DOT in a disability case.
Airlines must promptly assist wheelchair users, but federal officials found US Airways passengers at airports in Philadelphia and Charlotte, N.C., were missing flights because they were left unattended, taken to the wrong gate or not transported to their gate on time.
“All air travelers deserve to be treated equally and with respect, and this includes persons in wheelchairs and other passengers with disabilities,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We will continue to make sure airlines comply with our rules and treat their passengers fairly.”
But Kleo King, senior vice president of Accessibility Services for the United Spinal Association, says she has seen these types of incidents before and it’s ridiculous that it takes 300 complaints to get the attention of the DOT. Since the fine levied on US Airways is the largest of its kind for disability related violations, King hopes it gets the attention of the airline. “I would think they’d take notice,” she says.
Meanwhile, US Airways spokesman Todd Lehmacher said in a statement that the airline does take the role of assisting its passengers with disabilities seriously, and significant improvements have been made and will continue to be made. “We are investing $2 million per year in continuous enhancements to our technology, staffing and training,” he said.
Training is essential in improving airline service, but King says any training must be ongoing. King adds airlines must acknowledge federal laws that protect passengers with disabilities and that there will be consequences if they violate customer’s rights.
A free publication entitled Accessible Air Travel is available on United Spinal’s website: http://www.unitedspinal.org/disability-publications-resources/disability-publications/