(CNSNews.com) – In one of the largest fines levied against an airline for disability-related issues, the Transportation Department announced on Nov. 4 that it has fined U.S. Airways $1.2 million for failure to provide wheelchair assistance to passengers with disabilities in Philadelphia and Charlotte, N.C.
“All air travelers deserve to be treated equally and with respect, and this includes persons in wheelchairs and other passengers with disabilities,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “We will continue to make sure that airlines comply with our rules and treat their passengers fairly.”
As part of Air Carrier Access Act, “airlines are required to provide free, prompt wheelchair assistance upon request of passengers with disabilities,” the DOT said, including help for passengers moving between gates and making connections to other flights.
The Transportation Department examined 300 complaints from disabled passengers in 2011 and 2012--“only a sample” of the violations it found at both airports.
In one such case, according to the Charlotte Observer, a passenger filed a complaint in October 2011 after waiting an hour for wheelchair assistance. Another passenger, who had stents in his heart, did not receive wheelchair assistance until he almost missed his connecting flight, the last one of the night.
U.S. Airways must pay the government $700,000 within 30 days, while $500,000 will go towards improving service: $280,000 for additional staff, $80,000 for a phone line to help disabled passengers, $75,000 to buy tablets to monitor requests, $30,000 to program computers so that boarding passes show which passengers need help, and $35,000 to compensate passengers.