Fined Over Handling Of Disability Complaints
By Jim Douglas
January 30, 2012 - The Department of Transportation
(DOT) has fined Spirit Airlines $100,000 for failing to
appropriately record and respond to complaints about the
carrier’s treatment of passengers with disabilities,
violating DOT’s rules implementing the Air Carrier
Access Act which prohibits discrimination in air travel
on the basis of disability.
“Our rules on how airlines handle disability-related
complaints are designed to help us ensure that
passengers with disabilities are treated fairly when
they fly,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray
LaHood. “We will continue to make sure carriers comply
with our disability rules and take enforcement action
when they do not.”
Under DOT’s rules, carriers must sort disability-related
complaints into categories based on the type of
disability and nature of the complaint, and submit an
annual report to the Department on disability complaints
received the previous year. Each issue raised in a
complaint must be recorded separately to account for the
total number of complaints a carrier receives.
Department compiles carrier reports, publishes them on the
Internet for consumers to compare, and submits them as required
by Congress. In addition, if an airline receives a written
complaint alleging a violation of the Department’s disability
rules, the carrier must provide a written response within 30
days that specifically discusses the complaint, gives the
carrier’s view of whether a violation occurred, and states that
the complaint may be referred to DOT for an investigation.
2010, the Department’s Aviation Enforcement Office conducted an
inspection at Spirit’s corporate headquarters in Miramar, Fla.,
during which it reviewed disability-related complaints received
by Spirit in calendar year 2009. The Enforcement Office later
reviewed disability complaints received by the carrier in
calendar year 2010.
showed that Spirit violated the Department’s rules by failing to
adequately categorize and account for all the disability-related
issues that were raised in complaints received during 2009,
leading to an undercounting of the actual number of complaints
in the carrier’s annual report to DOT.
Many issues raised in the complaints were not separately counted, and a large number of additional complaints were not accounted for, the Enforcement Office found. In addition, Spirit failed to provide adequate responses to a vast majority of the disability-related complaints it received in 2009 and 2010.
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