Mesaba Airlines Fined For Failing To Provide Wheelchair Services


  Bookmark and Share

Mesaba Airlines Fined For Failing To Provide Wheelchair Services

By Daniel Baxter

January 8, 2011 - The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) assessed a civil penalty against Mesaba Aviation for violating 14 CFR Part 382 (Part 382) rules which protect air travelers with disabilities. The carrier was assessed a civil penalty of $125,000.  

Mesaba Airlines is an American regional airline based in Eagan, Minnesota. The airline operates under Mesaba Aviation, Inc. a wholly owned subsidiary of Pinnacle Airlines Corporation. Its flights are operated under the name Delta Connection for Delta Air Lines. 

?We expect airlines to respect the rights of passengers with disabilities, and we will continue to take enforcement action when they do not,? said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

DOT?s rules implementing the Air Carrier Access Act require airlines to provide assistance to passengers with disabilities in boarding and deplaning aircraft, including the use of wheelchairs, ramps, mechanical lifts or service personnel where needed. Carriers also must respond within 30 days to written complaints about their treatment of passengers with disabilities and specifically address the issues raised in each complaint, as well as inform passengers that they can refer their complaints to DOT for investigation. 

DOT?s Aviation Enforcement Office reviewed complaints about Mesaba?s treatment of passengers with disabilities filed with the carrier and with DOT during 2007 and 2008.  The complaints revealed a number of violations of the requirement to provide adequate enplaning and deplaning assistance, as well as instances where the carrier did not provide the required written responses to complaints from passengers with disabilities or notify them that they could refer their complaints to DOT. 

The civil penalty is in regards to Mesaba Aviation, failed to provide wheelchair assistance to passengers with a disability and making dispositive responses to written complaints. Part 382 implements the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), 49 U.S.C. ? 41705, and violations of that part also violate the ACAA.

To the extent that the ACAA and Part 382 violations occurred in interstate air transportation, the incidents are also violations of 49 U.S.C. ? 41702, which requires that air carriers provide safe and adequate interstate air transportation; to the extent the violations occurred in foreign air transportation, the incidents would violate 49 U.S.C. ? 41310, which, in part, prohibits air carriers and foreign air carriers from unreasonably discriminating against any person in foreign air transportation. This order directs Mesaba to cease and desist from future violations of Part 382 and assesses the carrier $125,000 in civil penalties.


Under section 382.39 [now sections 382.91 to 382.105], carriers must provide passengers with disability-related assistance in enplaning and deplaning aircraft. This assistance includes, as needed, the provision of services and personnel and the use of wheelchairs, ramps, or mechanical lifts. Section 382.39(a)(3) [now section 382.103] prohibits carriers from leaving passengers who are not independently mobile unattended in a ground wheelchair, boarding wheelchair, or other device for more than 30 minutes.

Section 328.65 [now section 382.155] requires carriers to provide a dispositive written response to a written complaint alleging a violation of Part 382 within 30 days of its receipt. An appropriate dispositive response must specifically discuss the complaint at issue, state the carrier?s view of whether a violation occurred, and state that the complainant may refer the matter to the Department for an investigation.


In mitigation, Mesaba explains that the complaint files identified by the Department in this matter involved services provided to passengers ticketed on Northwest Airlines, Inc. (Northwest) and Delta Air Lines, Inc. (Delta). Mesaba further explained that during the relevant period, Mesaba was wholly-owned and controlled by those carriers, both of which exclusively handled passenger sales, reservation, customer care, and recordkeeping functions, and most terminal services, for passengers on Mesaba flights.


For example, Mesaba stated that Northwest and Delta's Customer Care Departments maintained primary responsibility for managing and providing dispositive responses to disability-related complaints when required by Part 382. Further, Mesaba stated that more than half of the complaint files at issue involved wheelchair services provided at Northwest/Delta hubs in Detroit, Memphis, and Minneapolis; at these three hubs, Northwest and Delta maintained exclusive control over the contractors that provided enplaning/deplaning/connecting wheelchair assistance to their passengers with disabilities.


Mesaba stateed that it relied exclusively on Northwest/Delta and their wheelchair service contractors to meet the regulatory responsibility for terminal wheelchair assistance that section 382.91 assigns to Mesaba when it delivers a disabled passenger requiring such assistance to one of those hubs.


Mesaba stated that it recognized its Part 382 responsibilities to the disabled passengers it transports, and it has high standards for the accommodations to be provided to them, whether by Mesaba, a major carrier, or a service contractor.


Mesaba stated that in the future it will focus additional management resources and will improve internal controls and processes to better ensure those responsibilities and standards are met. Mesaba also maintains that it will encourage its major carrier partners to support service levels for disabled passengers that exceed the requirements of Part 382, whether or not a Mesaba flight is involved.

Other News Stories


Home Aviation News Aviation Stories Of Interest FAA Exam Upcoming Events Links To Other Sites General Aviation Helicopters Medical Factors Facing Pilots
Maintenance and Aircraft Mechanics Hot Air Balloon Aviation Training Handbooks Read Online Aviation History Legal Issues In Aviation Sea Planes Editorials
 ?AvStop Online Magazine                                                                 Contact Us                                                  Return To News                                          Bookmark and Share


AvStop Aviation News and Resource Online Magazine

Grab this Headline Animator