US Airways Fined $1.2 Million For Repeatedly Failing To Provide Proper Wheelchair Assistance

After reviewing hundreds of consumer complaints about US Airways’ lack of proper assistance for travelers in wheelchairs at two of the airline’s hub airports, the Dept. of Transportation has fined the carrier $1.2 million, a good chunk of which is to be used to improve systems for disabled passengers at these airports.

Under the Air Carrier Access Act, airlines are required to provide free, prompt wheelchair assistance — including helping get them from gate to gate in order to make connecting flights — upon request to passengers with disabilities.

But the DOT’s Aviation Enforcement Office reviewed around 300 complaints from 2011 and 2012 filed by US Airways customers about the lack of service at the airline’s main hub in Charlotte, NC, and at Philadelphia International, another hub airport for the airline.

According to the DOT, the airline’s system at these airports was inefficient and resulted in long delays for passengers, some of whom missed connecting flights and some who were left unattended for long periods of time.

Up to $500,000 of the $1.2 million fine may be used by US Airways for improvements in service to bring these airports into compliance with regulations. The money can be used for things like hiring managers, creating a telephone line for passengers who need assistance, purchasing equipment to monitor assistance requests, programming the airline’s computers so that boarding passes identify passengers with requests for special services, and providing compensation to passengers with disability-related complaints.

“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 in a statement. “We will continue to make sure that airlines comply with our rules and treat their passengers fairly.”

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