Northwest Airlines Settles With Transportation Department Over
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 10, 2004
WASHINGTON, DC--Northwest Airlines became the latest air carrier to settle a suit with the U.S. Department of Transportation over how it treats passengers with disabilities.
In a settlement announced Tuesday, Northwest was assessed a $225,000 fine for not providing enough places inside airliners to stow folding wheelchairs. The airline will not have to pay $205,000 of its fine if it instead uses the money to install closets on 27 of its planes to fit standard-size folding wheelchairs.
Since last March, the Transportation Department has assessed fines to more than a dozen U.S. air carriers for similar violations of the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). As in the Northwest case, the airlines were given the chance to avoid paying most of the penalties if the money is used instead to accommodate passengers with disabilities.
Last month, a group of 12 air travelers filed lawsuits against 10 airlines, claiming that the carriers continue to discriminate against passengers with disabilities in violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
In that suit, the passengers claimed that they were subjected to continued harassment and inconvenience by the airlines. Ordinarily, airlines cannot be sued through individual lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The airlines named in that suit, however, accepted a total of $3.2 billion in government bail-out funds after the September 11, 2001 terrorists attacks, thereby opening themselves up for private liability claims under the Rehab Act's anti-discrimination provisions.
That suit is a test case, asking the court to force the airlines to make reasonable accommodations in aircraft, facilities and programs, and to pay damages for past violations.
Information for the Air Traveler with a Disability (U.S. Federal Aviation Administration)