The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has fined United Airlines $2.75 million for violating the DOT rules protecting air travelers with disabilities and for violating the rule prohibiting long tarmac delays. The airline was ordered to cease and desist from future similar violations.
“It is our duty to ensure that travelers with disabilities have access to the services they need, and that when significant tarmac delays happen, travelers are not left on the plane,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We will make sure that airlines comply with our rules and treat their passengers fairly.”
The department investigated United’s compliance with its rule implementing the Air Carrier Access Act due to a significant increase in the number of disability-related complaints that United received from consumers in 2014. A review of these disability-related complaints revealed that United failed to provide passengers with disabilities prompt and adequate assistance with enplaning and deplaning aircraft and with moving through the terminal at Houston International Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Denver International Airport, Newark International Airport, and Dulles International Airport.
In addition, the enforcement office’s investigation revealed that in numerous instances United failed to return passengers’ wheelchairs, other mobility aids, or other assistive devices in a timely manner or in the condition in which the airline received them.
Of the $2 million assessed for these violations, United will spend $150,000 to improve quality assurance audits of United’s wheelchair vendor(s), including tracking the time period within which wheelchair assistance is provided to passengers with disabilities, and $500,000 towards a pilot program to develop and implement technology that assists passengers with disabilities in making requests for wheelchair and other disability-related assistance at the airport via United’s mobile app. DOT is also crediting United with $650,000 for compensation it provided to consumers who filed a disability-related complaint with the airline in 2014.
United is also being fined $750,000 for five lengthy tarmac delays that took place at Chicago O’Hare International Airport on December 8, 2013, and one lengthy tarmac delay of a flight that was diverted to Houston Hobby Airport on May 20, 2015.