British Airways, Lufthansa & Air France Fined For Treatment Of Disabled Passengers

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Four months after the U.S. Department of Transportation fined United Airlines $2 million for violating rules protecting air travelers with disabilities, the agency is continuing to police the skies when it comes to disabled passengers. This time, levying fines against Lufthansa, British Airways, and Air France. 

The DOT announced Thursday that it would fine Air France and Lufthansa $200,000 each and British Airways $150,000 for not adequately responding to complaints filed by passengers with disabilities between 2012 and 2015.

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) prohibits airlines from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. Under DOT rules, airlines are required to provide a written response to a written complaint alleging a violation of the ACAA within 30 days of receipt of the complaint.

As part of the process, airlines are supposed to provide travels with information on how to ask the DOT to investigate the incident.

However, the DOT alleges that Air France, Lufthansa, and British Airways failed to follow those rules on multiple occasions.

In the case of Air France, the DOT claims [PDF] the airline failed to summarize the facts in complaints and specifically admit or deny that a violation had occurred when responding to passengers who filed complaints for flights in 2013.

Likewise, the DOT alleges [PDF] that in 2012 British Airways failed to summarize the facts in complaints and specifically admit or deny that a violation had occurred when responding to passengers who filed complaints for flights.

Neither airline provided travelers with information on how to pursue enforcement action through the DOT.

For Lufthansa, the DOT says [PDF] that during an on-site regulatory compliance review investigators found that from 2012 to 2013 the carrier did not inform passengers of their right to pursue enforcement action. Specifically, in a number of complaint files reviewed, Lufthansa referred the passenger to an attachment to the response, sometimes calling it “Travel Tips.”

To settle the allegations, the airlines have agreed to pay the penalties in a variety of ways.

Air France will pay $140,000 in installments to the DOT, and offer vouchers and frequent flier miles to passengers who filed complaints.

British Airways will pay the DOT $75,000 within a month, and another $75,000 if it doesn’t handle complaints properly for the next year.

Finally, Lufthansa will pay $100,000 within a month, and another $100,000 if it doesn’t comply with regulations for the next year.

“When air travelers file complaints with airlines, they deserve prompt and complete responses that appropriately answer their specific concerns,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.