Airlines Fined For Discrimination Against Wheelchair Users;
Most Penalty Money Given Back For Corrections
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
August 29, 2003
WASHINGTON, DC--The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Thursday that it has fined three major airlines a total of $750,000 for discriminating against passengers that use wheelchairs. Most of the fines, however, were credited back to the airlines for them to use to comply with federal law.
DOT found that America West Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines violated the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and other federal regulations by failing to provide a place to stow standard-size folding wheelchairs inside their airplanes' cabins.
ACAA regulations require aircraft with 100 or more passenger seats, which were ordered after April 5, 1990 or delivered after April 5, 1992, to have space in the cabin designated to stow at least one passenger's folding wheelchair.
America West, which was fined $150,000, received a $135,000 credit; JetBlue, which had been fined $100,000, was given a $90,000 credit; and Southwest was credited back $450,000 of its $500,000 fine.
According to a DOT statement, America West will use its credit to provide stowage space on aircraft that were ordered or delivered before the requirement took effect. JetBlue will create a quality assurance team to learn more about providing service to passengers with disabilities, to provide information on its Web site about DOT's toll-free disability hotline, and to install teletypewriters at ticket counters to accommodate passengers who are deaf and hard of hearing. Southwest will use its credit to cover part of the cost associated with retrofitting all its older Boeing 737s with a closet to be used for stowing folding wheelchairs.