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Delta has been slammed with a $2 million fine for improper treatment of disabled travelers, reports USA Today's Ben Mutzabaugh. Delta has to pay $750,000 of the fine up front, and may allocate the remaining $1.25 million to improving its disabled traveler services above what the law requires.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) says this is the largest non-safety-related civil penalty ever assessed against an airline. In a statement, the agency said, "An investigation ... revealed many violations of the requirement to provide assistance getting on and off the airplane. The carrier’s complaint files also showed that it frequently did not provide an adequate written response to disability complaints from passengers. The Aviation Enforcement Office further found that Delta also failed to properly report each disability complaint in reports filed with the Department."
According to the Associated Press (AP), Delta has admitted no wrongdoing, but said it "will install more elevators, and allow customers to specify what type of wheelchair help they need when they buy a ticket on the airline's website. It will also install additional jetways—instead of stairs—for boarding regional flights."
Delta is certainly not the first airline to be fined for improper treatment of disabled passengers. AirTran was hit with a $500,000 fine last summer for similar violations. In Delta's case, however, the fact that the airline is a repeat offender seems to have been factored in. The AP notes, "The government says Delta's handling of disabled passengers actually got worse after an investigation in 2003. The complaints that led to the new penalty were from 2007 and 2008." It seems likely, then, that the DOT felt compelled to make a very strong point, and it certainly did.
Readers, have you ever flown with a disabled family member or friend? Was it challenging, or did the airline go out of its way to help?